U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently discussed the importance of women in development. Speaking to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, she noted that "as those who grow the world's food, collect the water, gather the firewood, wash the clothes, and increasingly, work in factories, run the shops, launch the businesses, and create jobs, women are powerful forces for any country's economic growth and social progress." So, America's development strategies must reflect the roles of women and the benefits they bring.
The United States has undertaken several foreign policy initiatives that reflect its commitment to improving the lives of women around the world. The first is the Global Health Initiative -- a $63 billion commitment to improve health and strengthen health systems worldwide. The Initiative will focus on those people whose health has the biggest impact on families and communities – women and girls. It aims to reduce maternal and child mortality and increase access to healthcare information, including family planning. The U.S. also intends to further reduce the numbers of new HIV infections. AIDS has now become a disease that disproportionately affects women.
A second U.S. development initiative is the global food security program -- a $3.5 billion commitment to strengthen the world's food supply, so farmers can earn enough to support their families and food can be available more broadly. As the majority of farmers in the world, women are integral to this mission.
Developing countries often face droughts, floods, storms, and pests without the fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or enriched seeds that farmers in wealthy countries use. Giving women in developing countries the tools and the training to grow more food and the opportunity to get that food to market where it can be sold will provide economic stability for their lives in addition to growing the economies of many countries.
Secretary of State Clinton stressed that "we must measure our progress not by what we say. . .but by how well we are able to improve the condition of women's lives, some near at hand who deserve the opportunities many of us take for granted, some in far distant cities and remote villages." This is the standard to which the United States holds itself.