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Why U.S. Centers Foreign Policy On Women

Women working in the fields in Malawi.

The most pressing global problems cannot be solved without the participation of women.

From the very beginning of his administration, President Barack Obama has put women at the heart of United States foreign policy, says Melanne Verveer, the United States Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues. And that is because the most pressing global problems cannot be solved without the participation of women.

“It's no coincidence that those countries that deny women basic human rights are some of the poorest and least stable,” said Ambassador Verveer. “According to the World Economic Forum, countries where men and women are closer to enjoying equal rights are far more economically competitive than those where the gender gap has left women and girls with limited or no access to medical care, education, elected office, and the marketplace.”

In bad economic times, women’s participation in the economic sector and their increased efficiency and productivity in other sectors, such as agriculture, is essential to recovery and growth.

Nonetheless, too many women still do not have access to banking, credit or training - critical components which allow individuals to effectively participate in the economy. In some cultures, women may be prohibited by law from inheriting or owning land, from participation in the formal economy, or from obtaining certain job opportunities. By addressing these barriers, economies could unleash significant gains. Investing in women results in enormous economic gains.

Women’s participation is not only important for economic growth and prosperity but to ensure sustainable peace, stability and security.

Many conflicts could be avoided or eliminated if only women were included in the resolution process. They are most affected by residual violence and poverty in armed disputes, and offer a needed point of view. Yet they are excluded from the negotiating table.

For these reasons, the United States launched a national action plan that expands U.S. efforts to include women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations, and reconstruction.

“The United States must remain a vital voice for women and girls not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is the smart thing to do,” said Ambassador Verveer. “Advocating for women's full economic, social, and political participation around the world is one of the most potent weapons in America's smart-power arsenal. And it's one we shouldn't even hesitate to unleash.”