August 26th is Women's Equality Day in the United States. It was on this date in 1920 that passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote, was adopted and thus became the law of the land. It was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.
The observance of Women’s Equality Day also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality, not only in the U.S. but perhaps more importantly, around the globe.
Every society in the world relies on women for labor, in the home and outside of it, for family support and care. Women raise and teach children, take care of relatives, and are instrumental in keeping tradition alive and society whole and healthy. Yet, in many parts of the world, their work is not valued or recognized by society, historians or politicians. Despite their vital contributions, they are the segment of the population most likely to be abused and exploited, their rights as human beings disregarded.
"When [women] are marginalized and mistreated, as is still the case in too many places... around the world, broad and lasting progress is impossible," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March.
That is why advancing women’s equality is central to U.S. foreign policy. Whether it is the Obama Administration's decision to elevate development as a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy; initiatives such as the global food security program, or the global health initiative, with its focus on maternal and infant health; or programs such as Afghanistan's Women’s Action Plan, with its emphasis on women's education, leadership, health and justice; the U.S. is working to empower women and girls.
"When women are afforded their rights and afforded equal opportunities in education, health care, employment and political participation, they help drive social and economic progress," said Secretary Clinton. "Empowering women is a key to global progress and prosperity."
The U.S. is working toward the day when Women's Equality Day is celebrated in every country around the world.