March is Women’s History Month in the United States, and today is International Women’s Day around the world. Most of our Embassies will be holding events to commemorate the day and month. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony, with special guest First Lady Michelle Obama, to honor women who have made tremendous positive contributions to their communities, often at great personal cost.
Here in Apia, I’m spending the morning with a strong, fearless Samoan named Lina Chang, who founded and runs the Samoa Victims Support Group (SVSG). I just presented Lina with a special award from the Embassy for her tireless work on behalf of victimized women and children, and we’ll be spending the next few hours visiting the dozens of children under SVSG’s care, talking with volunteers and staff, and walking through the process that victims of abuse experience at the court house. I plan to write a post next week about my tour and the critical work that SVSG does.
For now, I would like to share with you the International Women’s Day thoughts of my colleague, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer. Ambassador Verveer coordinates our foreign policy and program activity related to the political, economic, and social advancement of women around the world. Among the powerful efforts pursued through her office are the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves, the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership, and many civil society programs designed to assist women to participate fully in the governance and development of their communities.
As Ambassador Verveer says:
“Secretary Clinton likes to call this time the Participation Age, a time where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.
“Despite the progress that women and girls have made, many challenges remain to be addressed. Women are disproportionately trapped in poverty and gender-based violence, which is a global scourge. Women are too often absent from village councils and parliaments, the board rooms and negotiating tables where decisions are made affecting them, their families, and their communities. Too many women are denied equal access to healthcare, to education, to the credit they need to launch and grow small businesses.
“The United States will continue to make the empowerment of women a cornerstone of our foreign policy. It’s not just the right thing to do. A growing body of research affirms that investing in women is one of the smartest and most strategic things a country can do. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone men and women, boys and girls, the whole world over.”
Well said. Very true. And worth remembering and acknowledging not only today but every day of the year.