“My job . . . is to advance the status of women and girls as a critical element of all U.S. diplomatic efforts,” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell said recently in Washington, DC.
Women are critical to every issue we face, including security, health, governance, and the economy.
“I’d like to give you a sense of four areas where I hope to focus my time and effort,” Ambassador Russell said.
The first is gender-based violence.
“We know an estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, and in some countries, 70 percent of female populations are affected,” she said. “The U.S. supports comprehensive efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in all its forms, whether in conflict or peacetime settings.”
The second is on women’s participation in public life.
“Despite comprising over 50 percent of the world’s population, women continue to be underrepresented in every aspect of political and public life,” she said. “There aren’t enough women in . . . places where decisions get made . . . Women’s participation affects the types of policy issues that are debated and decided in parliaments, local councils, and government ministries.”
The third focus is on adolescent girls.
“Healthy, educated, successful adolescent girls lead to healthy, educated, successful women and ultimately communities and societies,” she said. “If we can ensure that more adolescent girls stay and graduate from quality secondary school, remain healthy and avoid early and forced marriage and early pregnancy, they will indeed be on a course to a better life and positively influence the lives of future generations.”
The fourth is on women’s economic empowerment.
“Countries can realize significant gains from focusing on leveling the playing field for women,” she said. “A whole-of-international-community approach is needed to advance the economic empowerment of women and girls. [It] will leverage the established international fora that have already turned an eye toward economically empowering women . . . and will look to see how we can enhance these efforts.”
“Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. who famously said ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” Ambassador Russell said in conclusion. “I believe this is true for women’s equality.”