This week's "Photo of the Week" comes to us from Paul Watzlavick, the State Department's East Asia and Pacific Media Hub Director, and shows U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with participants of the Lower Mekong Initiative Women's event in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on July 13, 2012. Secretary Clinton spoke with the women during her recent trip to Asia; she launched the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) with the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam in 2009 to enhance cooperation among the countries in the areas of environment, health, education, and infrastructure development.
In her remarks at the event in Siem Reap, Secretary Clinton said, "As Secretary of State, I make these issues about women and girls a priority everywhere I go. Because when women have the chance to participate in the economic and political lives of their communities, not only do their lives improve, but the lives of their families do as well. Commerce flourishes, instability declines, and you see a general uplifting of societies and nations. And I have met women all over this region who are living this truth every day -- educators in Hanoi, entrepreneurs in Bangkok, democracy activists in Yangon, garment workers here in Siem Reap, women like all of you who are working hard for progress throughout the Mekong region."
Just as investing in women and gender equality has a multiplying effect that brings about positive results for entire societies, investing in collecting and analyzing data on women and gender equality can exponentially increase those benefits. On July 19, 2012, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks on "Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap" at Gallup in Washington, D.C.
The Secretary said, "We keep statistics on everything we care about, from RBIs to ROI, the daily ups and downs of the Dow and our bank accounts. So if we're serious about narrowing the gender gap and helping more girls and women, then we must get serious about gathering and analyzing the data that tell the tale. Now, the data already provides strong evidence that demonstrates the links between gender equality and increased prosperity and security. This has been a real focus for us at the State Department. We have been clear from day one that when we're making the case for elevating the roles of women, we can't just rely on moral arguments as important and compelling as they might be. We have to make a rigorous case, backed up with solid evidence and data."
The Secretary continued, "...We have to push, not only for more data, but better data -- data that illuminates the challenges and opportunities that women and girls face, on their own and relative to men and boys, and their effect on shared stability and prosperity. And we have to ask questions we've never asked before and make sure we're asking them the right way.
"To achieve the benefits of this new age of participation, an era when every person on the planet will eventually be connected up in some way, we must find ways to lower the barriers that are still in legal systems, cultural taboos, economic discrimination, educational problems. That will give us a better chance of not only solving the problems but doing so in a sustainable and strategic way."