I am happy to share some very good news. On Wednesday, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum (“the Memorandum”) that will help ensure that advancing the rights of women and girls remains central to U.S. diplomacy and development around the world — and that these efforts will continue to be led by public servants at the highest levels of the United States government. Secretary Clinton was proud to be at President Obama’s side as he signed the Memorandum during her final week in office. And Secretary-designate Kerry said: “I applaud the President for institutionalizing these efforts and ensuring these issues continue to receive the high-level attention they deserve at the State Department, at USAID, and across the U.S. government.”
In 2009, in order to convey to the world the importance of women’s issues to the U.S. government, President Obama appointed me the United States’ first-ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. And over the last four years, I’ve worked closely with and reported directly to Secretary Clinton on efforts to promote women’s economic empowerment, to integrate women into peace and security efforts, to promote women’s health and education, and address gender based violence. The rank of Ambassador has been immeasurably important in my ability to advance this work.
President Obama’s new memorandum ensures that an Ambassador-at-Large reporting directly to the Secretary heads the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Recognizing the critical relationship between gender equality and our broader development goals, the Memorandum also directs the appointment of a Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to advise the USAID Administrator on key priorities for U.S. development assistance. And, to promote government wide coordination and new action across agencies from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to Peace Corps to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Memorandum establishes an inter-agency working group on international gender issues chaired by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, in coordination with the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the White House Council on Women and Girls. The working group will guide our government-wide efforts, promote the sharing of data and best practices, and ensure that all U.S. agencies are working together to maximize our impact around the world.
As Secretary Clinton has said so often, advancing the status of women and girls around the world is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. Research has shown that progress in women’s employment, health, and education can lead to greater economic growth and stronger societies. When women’s voices are fully-integrated into peace negotiations and security efforts, conflicts can be avoided and peace is longer-lasting. When women and men are equally empowered as political and social actors, governments can be more representative and efficient. It is essential that the United States continue to work with advocates inside and outside governments and around the world to ensure that all girls and boys have the same opportunities to reach their God-given potential. This week’s Presidential Memorandum strengthens the United States’ ability to provide vital leadership in this effort.