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Op-Ed: On the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day

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On this 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, it is important to recognize that women globally have made significant gains.  Despite the progress, vast inequalities persist.

The potential of women to contribute to economic growth and prosperity, social progress, peace, and good governance is still untapped in too many places.  Gender-based violence not only destroys the lives of individual girls and women, families, and communities, but also robs the world of the talent it urgently needs.

As the world marks International Women’s Day, Secretary Hillary Clinton will participate in a celebration in Washington, D.C. with First Lady Michelle Obama to announce the International Women of Courage Awards to 10 honorees from around the globe.

The recipients represent the women who work in their countries against corruption and injustice, and who fight for human rights, good governance and economic opportunity. They are agents of change.  Overcoming poverty, discrimination, and violence, the honorees not only champion the rights of women and girls, but also serve as an inspiration to us all.

If we are to build a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world, we cannot leave half the population behind.  We cannot successfully tackle the challenges that confront us in relation to the environment, security, economics, development, and more, if women are not engaged at every level of society.

The U.S. is committed to the empowerment of women not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is the smart thing to do.  When women make progress, countries make progress.  A mountain of research shows that investments in women correlate positively with alleviating poverty and increasing prosperity.

The education of a girl is the most effective development investment that can be made with enormous positive consequences for her future and her family’s future. Circumscribing women’s participation and leaving their potential untapped, shortchanges women and shortchanges our world. We vitally need women’s talents, experiences, and leadership.

Today we celebrate the contributions of women. Everywhere they are making a difference. Many do so with great courage and often at great personal risk. They are changing the world for the better.   Today, we salute all Women of Courage.

Under the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. is investing in efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality and avert millions of new HIV infections, among other goals. We are activating a diverse range of public-private partnerships to help meet critical goals.

Through the U.S. Department of State’s mWomen initiative, we are working to close the gender gap in access to mobile technology, which will provide women with a potentially transformational tool to improve their lives.

Through this initiative, the U.S. Embassy hosted a delegation of women technology executives in Monrovia last week.  They met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, NGOs, and private sector representatives to brainstorm strategies for expanding mobile technology tools in Liberia.

Our global food security program is a major commitment to strengthen the world’s food supply, so farmers can earn enough to support their families and food will be more broadly available. Women are integral to this mission.  Women grow, harvest, store, and prepare most of the world’s food, often in extremely difficult conditions.

Exposure to smoke from traditional stoves and open fires – the primary means of cooking and heating for 3 billion people in developing countries – causes almost 2 million deaths annually, with women and young children affected most.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an innovative public-private partnership Secretary Clinton launched last fall, aims to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change.

Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, and they also have a significant role to play in combating the problem.  We are instituting a program that will bring women climate leaders from the developing world to the United States for three weeks to learn about the development of new policies related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as information about cutting edge small scale clean technologies and how to promote women’s entrepreneurship opportunities in their countries.

By Karl Albrecht / Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy

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