<!-- IMAGE -->
The United States is committed to incorporating women’s issues into all aspects of its foreign policy, said Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. In recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, she said violence against women cannot be relegated to the margins of foreign policy. The scope of the problem makes it not only one of the largest and most entrenched humanitarian and development issues, but a security issue.
Around the world, the places that are the most dangerous for women also pose the greatest threats to international peace and security. The correlation is clear, said Ambassador Verveer: "where women are oppressed, governance is weak and terrorists are more likely to take hold." Women’s participation is a prerequisite for good governance, for rule of law, and for economic prosperity.
"Preventing violence against women isn’t just the right thing to do," said Ambassador Verveer, "it’s also the smart thing to do." Studies have demonstrated that women are key drivers of economic growth and that investing in women yields enormous dividends. Women reinvest up to 90 percent of their income in their families and communities. And yet none of these benefits are possible unless girls are able to learn without fear and women are able to have autonomy over their own lives.
With this goal in mind, the U.S. initiated the small grants program to support gender equality in Afghanistan. The 3-year, $26.3 million program will provide technical support to non-governmental organizations focused on helping women. The U.S. also allocated $150 million in 2009 for Afghan women and girls.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.S. is providing $17 million in funding to assist survivors of sexual and gender based violence in the country’s Eastern provinces.
Ultimately, said Ambassador Melanne Verveer, "the world needs to recognize that the problem of violence is, at its root, a manifestation of the low status of women and girls around the world. Ending the violence requires elevating their status and freeing their potential to be agents of change in their community."