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When outlining the new role of development in the Obama administration's foreign policy, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stressed that one of the key points of the new strategy will be to focus on working with women and girls, because they are critical to advancing social, economic, and political progress:
"Women and girls are one of the world’s greatest untapped resources. Investing in the potential of women to lift and lead their societies is one of the best investments we can make. ... When a woman receives even just one year of schooling, her children are less likely to die in infancy or suffer from illness or hunger, and more likely to go to school themselves."
Studies by international bodies such as the World Bank, United Nations and the World Economic Forum correlate investments in women with greater economic growth, good governance, and democratic progress.
And these are some of the reasons, said Secretary of State Clinton, why the United States is "taking steps to put women front and center in our development work:
"We’re starting to design programs with the needs of women in mind – by hiring more women as extension workers to reach women farmers, or women health educators to improve outreach to women and girls. And we are training more women in our partner countries to carry forward the work of development themselves."
"One reason that microfinance is employed around the world is because women have proven to be such a safe and reliable credit risk," said Secretary of State Clinton. "The money they borrow is not only invested and re-invested, and turned into a profit, it is used to improve conditions for their families. And it is almost always repaid."
Indeed, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, whereas a man is likely to keep half or more of his income for himself, a woman will most likely share with her family and her community.
"You know the proverb, Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime?" said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Well, if you teach a woman to fish, she’ll feed the whole village."