10 years ago, 189 nations, including the United States, signed onto the Millennium Declaration, which laid out 8 goals that when achieved, would end extreme poverty and improve the health and well-being of the world's poor. Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, has stated that Millennium Development Goal 3 on gender equality is the linchpin to achieving all other Millennium Development Goals.
"It is a simple fact," said Ambassador Verveer, "no country can get ahead if half of its citizens are left behind." The United States' strategy for meeting the Millennium Development Goals has been to invest in women and girls through many of its major policy initiatives. The first is the Global Health Initiative – a $63 billion program to improve health and strengthen health systems worldwide, with a focus on maternal and child heath, family planning and nutrition.
Women are also a key pillar of the Feed the Future program which is a $3.5 billion commitment by the U.S. to sustainably reduce poverty and hunger through agricultural development and food security, so farmers can support their families and food can be available more broadly. Women farmers in particular need training, access to financial services, markets and to be included in decision-making if they are to become more agriculturally productive.
In order to alleviate poverty, economic growth is essential. Because women-run small and medium size businesses are key accelerators of economic growth, the U.S. has focused efforts on increasing women's economic opportunities. In conjunction with the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the U.S. has created the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program to provide women with the tools and skills they need to gain access to financing and markets.
Another key indicator of gender equality is the situation of women in conflict and post-conflict settings. The U.S. has been working to accelerate implementation of the U.N Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, and 1889, all of which link women to peace and security. Where women are oppressed and marginalized, societies are more dangerous and extremism is more likely to take hold.
Initiatives like these said Ambassador Verveer, "indicate the centrality of investing in women and girls as a fundamental principle of our approach to development and foreign policy. The only way we can hope to meet the fundamental challenges of our time is to incorporate the needs and tap the talents and potential of women and girls around the world."