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Empowering Women and Girls

Afghan women listen to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a speech about women's rights, in Kabul (File)

"The United States has made empowering women and girls a cornerstone of our foreign policy."

"The United States has made empowering women and girls a cornerstone of our foreign policy," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "because women's equality is not just a moral issue, it's not just a humanitarian issue, it is not just a fairness issue; it is a security issue."

When women are allowed to have jobs, they drive economic growth across all sectors. If a girl goes to school, even just for one year, her income dramatically increases for life, and her children are more likely to survive and be healthier. When women have equal rights, nations are more stable and secure. So, the subjugation of women is a threat to the common security of the world. That's why the United States is working to elevate diplomacy and development to be on a par with defense.

Toward that end, the U.S. State Department is creating partnerships with governments, non-governmental organizations, and private businesses to improve the status of women where they live. The U.S. has formed an alliance with Great Britain, Australia, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve maternal and child health. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where violence against women and sexual-based violence is rampant, the U.S. is developing a mobile justice initiative to help women collect evidence of crimes committed against them, record and transmit their testimony, and help bring the perpetrators to justice.

The low value that many societies place on girls makes possible many of the worst abuses they suffer. Too often it is a girl who is the first to drop out of school, the last to be fed, the last to receive medical care. "So, we need to persuade families and nations," said Secretary Clinton, "to value girls and to teach the girls themselves to understand their own value and their potential." If societies will invest in girls, there will be less poverty, greater development, and increased stability. There are more than six-hundred million girls in the developing world alone. Clearly the stakes are high.

That's why the United States is committed to advancing the status of women around the world. "There truly are no limits to what we can do together on behalf of girls and women," said Secretary Clinton. Every girl in the world deserves to have a chance to live up to her dreams and aspirations.