“Women across the world have more champions in American government than ever before”

17 03 2009

A lot of the stuff we blog about tends to be depressing… so here’s some rather uplifting news!

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass) chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a fantastic piece in the Washington Times today where he writes about his creation of a new subcommittee devoted to global women’s issues and the need to push for greater gender equality. He makes several good points, including that across the globe, women are harder hit than men are in times of crisis. He writes (bold emphasis mine):

Women have to contend not only with an economic crisis, but also with discrimination. A UNICEF study found that women in the Middle East and North Africa earn around 30 percent as much as men do and women in Latin America and South Asia earn 40 percent as much. In some countries, outdated stereotyping leads to women being fired first: Men are seen as the legitimate breadwinners when jobs are scarce. During Asia’s financial collapse of the 1990s, South Korea laid off women at 10 times the rate of men.

From there he goes on to mention how women’s exclusion from the formal economy makes them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation like human trafficking and sexual slavery. Furthermore, as families scramble to keep afloat despite economic/financial hardships, girls more than boys are forced to drop out of school and work in order to help sustain the family. Being deprived of education and forced to work decreases their chances of achieving better and brighter futures. It also hurts society as a whole, as he says:

It is common knowledge that a small investment in a girl’s education reaps enormous rewards for an entire society – whether she becomes a doctor or learns to read. World Bank Chief Robert Zoellick has said, “Investing in adolescent girls is precisely the catalyst poor countries need to overcome poverty.”

It is amazingly refreshing and inspiring to have people in positions of power to highlight the importance of addressing gender/women’s issues both across the globe and within the US. After listing these global gender inequities that women face, he writes (bold emphasis, again mine):

These are the precise issues that led me to create a subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to deal with global women’s issues. It’s time that we rethink our investment in the potential of more than half of the global population. We must look again at our international instruments and policy and strengthen the ability of women to make their own decisions and compete equally…

…Even as markets plunge, empowering women is one investment that is guaranteed to show enormous returns. If we keep faith with the enormous potential and promise of our young women, they will do things their mothers and grandmothers, and fathers and grandfathers, only dreamed of. And all of us will be better off.

Thank you Sen. Kerry for taking a strong, affirmative stance on women’s rights/gender equality. And thank you Sen. Kerry for emphasizing that women’s issues are not mere women’s issues but larger social issues that affect everyone. It’s about time that we have an administration that respects women and pushes for greater gender equality.

Hopefully this won’t just be all talk and we will actually witness action and results. But the new White House Council on Women and Girls and the subcommittee on global women’s issues is definitely a start, and you’ve gotta begin somewhere, right?

Yay! There is still hope left in this world!


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