Why Countries Must Work Together to Empower Women

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As the world celebrates of Women’s History Month, Special Representative Reta Jo Lewis today discussed what the U.S. Department of State is doing to help empower women, particularly women in state and local government, not only through education, but also by helping them to foster and leverage connections with their foreign counterparts around the world.

On her remarks at U.S. Mint Federal Observance of Women’s History Month, Ms. Lewis said the Women’s History Month not only to celebrate the great women leaders who have paved the way for women’s suffrage and equal rights and opportunities, but also to remember that the world still haa a long way to go.

“Why do we set aside an entire month to observe and honor women’s history? Why should all of us care?” -Ms. Lewis

Ms. Lewis shared some startling statistics shed light on why in 2012 the world still talking about why all must work together to empower women:

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Daljit Dhaliwal, Host of UN TV series 21st Century, moderates the first in a series of UN TV debates, Face to Face: Women’s Empowerment, Development Cooperation and Culture. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Currently, 12 FORTUNE 500 companies are run by women, down from 15 in 2010, that is a problem, Ms. Lewis noted.

She reports in 2012, women hold 90, or 16.8%, of the 535 seats in the 112th U.S. Congress.

The statistics paint a clear picture of the work that remains to empower women to seek leadership positions alongside their fathers, brothers, and sons not only in the United States but also around the world, Ms. Lewis said.

“The theme of today’s events at the U.S. Mint, “Women’s Education is Women’s Empowerment,” is timely and significant.” -Ms. Lewis

Today, the world faces a unique set of challenges economic, social, and political that will require collaborative innovation and determination of ALL the world’s best minds, before they can be tackled.

The Obama administration has the conviction of the need to seize the moment and chief among these partners are women.

“Integrating gender dimensions into policy dialogue can reduce gender barriers, unleash the productive potential of women, and broaden both the economic impact and sustainability of policy interventions.” -Ms. Lewis

Ms. Lewis says Secretary Clinton and officials across the Administration have stated repeatedly, the major security, governance, environmental, and economic challenges of the 21st century cannot be solved without the participation of women at all levels of society.

That is because when women are at the table much more can be accomplished, Ms. Lewis underlined.

She cites that the U.S. National Security Strategy recognizes that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity.”

“As women progress, everyone in society benefits, including men.” -Ms. Lewis

Tapping into the limitless potential of women is not only the right thing to do but it is the smart thing, Ms. Lewis noted.

The United States government and its partners are investing in a historic effort to empower women globally.

The White House Project in particular has been committed to the mission for over a decade working to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly of women with the goal of making American institutions truly representative.

Secretary Clinton has made women and girls a priority as well.

Ms. Lewis says Secretary Clinton regularly delivers policy addresses on the role women and girls should play in public service, economic growth, and peace and security, as part of what will be a robust legacy of her work to promote gender equality and advance the status of women and girls across all of the Department’s work.

Secretary Clinton is set to launch a platform to engage a new generation of women committed to public service, create an infrastructure of support, training and mentoring, and help enable more women to enter public service and political leadership.

This platform is called the Women in Public Service Project and was launched by the U.S. Department of State, in collaboration with the Seven Sisters women’s colleges, aiming to increase the number of women in public service at the local, national, and international levels.

The initiative envisions a world in which political and civic leadership is at least 50% women by 2050, Ms. Lewis said.

She stresses that it will require every single woman in the room to make a commitment to support their peers and seek new opportunities.

“To invoke the motto of The White House Project, “*Add women, change everything.” -Ms. Lewis

Ms. Lewis says it is essential that women leaders in communities, industry, and government not only support each other but also support young women and emerging women leaders by working to create a support system through professional women’s networks

Secretary Clinton has made it a priority to engage US subnational leaders and utilize them as an extraordinary source of innovation, talent, resources, and knowledge, Ms. Lewis added.

However, Ms. Lewis pointed out that despite the progress in the empowerment of women embodied by Women’s History Month and this celebration of women leaders, women continue to face obstacles such as limited educational opportunities, lack of individual confidence, and setbacks unique to women trading their goods and growing their businesses.

Nevertheless, by providing women with the tools to overcome and eliminate these hindrances, they can empower a new generation of business contributors, community leaders, and policy makers, Ms. Lewis stressed.

The United States was at the forefront in 2009 and 2010 in leading efforts at the UN to support the consolidation of the UN’s existing gender-related institutions into a single more effective women’s agency. Ms. Brimmer said it was their goal at the UN to elevate women’s issues to their rightful status.

United States is also playing a leading role, along with international partners, in supporting empowerment of women, within the UN system, through participation in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.