President Obama knows that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls at home and abroad is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, as Secretary Clinton has famously said. A growing body of evidence- and our own experience- shows us that families, communities and countries are more prosperous and secure when, as President Obama said this month, "you unleash the power of everyone, not just some". That's why we've taken steps to achieve that simple and profound goal, from establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls, to launching a multilateral initiative to expand women’s political and economic participation, to developing a new strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women, to implementing a national action plan to promote the inclusion of women in conflict resolution and peace processes, to focusing on women and girls for greater impact in our global health and food security initiatives.Incoming Secretary of State John Kerry has said he will continue to prioritize gender equality in US foreign policy, and I desperately hope he will honor the work that outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began.
And Secretary Clinton's leadership in integrating the advancement of women and girls into U.S. foreign policy has been indispensable. With the tireless assistance of our first-ever Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer, she has elevated these issues in our diplomacy and ensured progress for women and societies for generations to come.
Today, President Obama took a critical step to institutionalize all these efforts by signing a Presidential Memorandum to strengthen and expand U.S. government capacity and coordination across all agencies to better promote gender equality and empower women and girls. In the Memorandum, President Obama reaffirmed that "promoting gender equality and advancing the status of all women and girls around the world remains one of the greatest unmet challenges of our time, and one that is vital to achieving our overall foreign policy objectives."
Obama signed the memorandum yesterday with Clinton at his side:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton watches as President Barack Obama signs a Presidential memorandum, "Coordination of Policies and Programs to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women and Girls Globally," in the Oval Office, Jan. 20, 2013. [Official White House Photo by Pete Souza]Via the Office of the Spokesperson of the United States Department of State, Clinton's statement this morning on President Obama's signing of this important memorandum:
The Obama Administration has made it clear that advancing the rights of women and girls is critical to the foreign policy of the United States. This is a matter of national security as much as it is an issue of morality or fairness. President Obama's National Security Strategy explicitly recognizes that "countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind."I can only begin to imagine how desperate Clinton is to see this work continue, too. Thank you, Madame Secretary, for laying the pathstones.
That's why I'm so pleased about the Presidential Memorandum that President Obama signed yesterday, which institutionalizes an elevated focus on global women’s issues at the State Department and USAID and ensures coordination on these issues across the federal government. And it is so important that incoming Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed his support for the continued elevation of these issues in our foreign policy.
As I have said many times, protecting and advancing the rights of women are critical to solving virtually every challenge we face as individual nations and as a community of nations. We have made great progress, but there is more to do. This is the unfinished business of the 21st Century, and it is essential that it remains central to our foreign policy for years to come.