Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, speaks at CSIS
September 8, 2010
Written by Cathryn Streifel
Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, spoke at CSIS on September 7th about the importance of empowering women and girls in order to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Following her remarks, she took questions from the audience.
Ambassador Verveer stated that although considerable progress has been made in the last decade to empower women and girls, gender inequality is far from overcome. While women perform 60% of the world’s work, they earn less than 5% of its income. Two-thirds of unschooled children are girls and 75% of illiterate adults are women. Women hold only one-fifth of the positions in national governments.
Ambassador Verveer echoed the words of Secretary Clinton that “women and girls are one of the world’s greatest untapped resources.” She described how investing in women and girls correlates positively with poverty alleviation and why educating a girl is the single best development investment possible.
The ambassador explained that women and girls are central to U.S. foreign policy, laying out the five gender-related pillars of U.S. diplomacy and development efforts:
First, the Global Health Initiative (GHI), with which the United States is scaling up its work in maternal and child health, family planning, and nutrition. By strengthening existing health systems, GHI will help provide women an integrated package of essential health services.
Above, video from the event
Second, she said, President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative recognizes that women—who grow, harvest, store, and prepare most of the world’s food—have a particular need for training and access to financial services.
Third, Ambassador Verveer made clear that women are instrumental to the U.S. response to climate change. Secretary Clinton, she said, will soon announce a new public-private partnership, centering on women and girls, to safeguard health and the environment.
Fourth, she spoke to gender’s importance for economic growth. She emphasized that investment in small- and medium-sized businesses run by women is linked with GDP growth. She stated that the United States recently created the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to give women access to the benefits of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. She explained that the United States was similarly instrumental in getting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation countries to see women as drivers of economic growth.
Fifth, Ambassador Verveer stated that the United States is currently working to promote women’s political participation, including the implementation of a UN resolution that links women to peace and security. “The subjugation of women,” she said, “is a threat to our national security.”
According to the ambassador, the United States will outline a strategy for achieving its contribution to the MDGs at the UN summit on September 20-22. This strategy, she said, will call for a focus on innovation, basic and applied research, and expanding access to effective technologies