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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Promoting Better Health for Women and Girls


In an op-ed for International Women's Day, Secretary Kerry emphasized that no country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind. According to the World Economic Forum, countries where men and women are closer to enjoying equal rights are far more economically competitive than those where the gender gap has left women and girls with limited or no access to medical care, education, elected office, and the marketplace.

The Department of State seeks to ensure that women’s issues are fully integrated into U.S. foreign policy. During her tenure, Hillary Clinton introduced the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) which works to promote stability, peace, and development by empowering women politically, socially, and economically around the world. The Secretary’s Office of Global Health Diplomacy (S/GHD) affirms its commitment to focus on improved health for women and girls builds healthier families, communities, and nations.

The health champions here are representative of our chiefs of mission abroad who have shown special attention to the well-being and equal treatment of women and girls.

Ambassador James: An Advocate for Maternal and Child Health

Date: 2014 Description: Ambassador Makila James works at laptop computer. - State Dept Image Ambassador to Swaziland, Makila James, has spent the last year and a half as an advocate for women and girls through a variety of efforts in the “Mountain Kingdom”. The PEPFAR program in Swaziland has been supporting the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland and civil society to scale up the quality of services nationwide since their Partnership Framework on HIV and AIDS was signed in 2009. The Swaziland platform for prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) is internationally recognized as a success and the PEPFAR team has been ensuring that key aspects of maternal health care are integrated whenever possible. The vulnerability of women – and especially adolescent girls - is of primary importance to the PEPFAR team in Swaziland and to Ambassador James.

Ambassador Godec: Clean Cookstoves Leads to Improved Health in Women

Date: 2013 Description: Ambassador Robert Godec poses with other officials. © AP ImageExposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires – the primary means of cooking and heating for nearly three billion people in the developing world – causes four million deaths annually and is the fourth worst overall health risk factor in the world, and second worst for women and girls. U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec has actively promoted a wide range of health programs, including support for the public-private partnership Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves launched in 2010 to address the 4 million premature deaths that occur each year due to exposure to household air pollution. Under his leadership, U.S. Embassy Nairobi has helped bring local clean cookstove production to Kenya. BURN Manufacturing, with $3 million in financing from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and $1 million in financing from General Electric, expects to manufacture and sell 3.6 million clean cookstoves in the region over the next 10 years. Ambassador Godec’s leadership helped engage the Secretary’s Global Partnership Initiative (S/GPI) to commit $100,000 towards this effort, which was officially announced on January 31, 2013. Embassy Nairobi is reaching out to other cookstove businesses active in Kenya to discuss ways to support their work. The efforts of Ambassador Godec support the Alliance’s mission to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a viable commercial market for clean and efficient cookstoves and fuel.

Embassy Harare: Give Us the Women!: Zimbabwean Women Talk Politics, Sexuality, and Science

Embassy Harare commemorated Women’s History Month with a robust line-up of events, including the launch of a PEPFAR-supported project aimed at fighting gender-based violence and three dynamic public discussion fora which covered topics like religious and cultural patriarchy, marital rape, and the perception of women in politics. The Embassy used Women’s History Month to highlight the USG commitment to empower Zimbabwean women politically and economically, to create platforms for substantive discussions about issues facing Zimbabwean women, and to support the efforts of alumnae of USG sponsored programs.

On March 6, Tag-a-Life International Trust (TaLI), an advocacy group for the rights of girls, launched a project designed to increase awareness of gender-based violence (GBV) among vulnerable youth and address its intersection with HIV/AIDS. Embassy Harare, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), provided $100,000 to TaLI, which will enable them to reach 300 schools and train 160 community peer educators in four districts of Midlands Province over the next two years.

Ambassador Storella: ‘The Most Dangerous Day in a Woman’s Life’

Date: 2012 Description: A caregiver examines a pregnant woman. © AP ImageLast year Ambassador Mark Storella co-authored an op-ed with Zambia’s first lady discussing the successes of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a partnership between the U.S. government, the governments of Uganda and Zambia, and the Norwegians where maternal mortality rates are disproportionately high. Within just one year, using a district-level approach and work in community health facilities in four districts, preliminary data from this pilot project show an increase in the number of women delivering in facilities in four districts by over 30 percent. Much still needs to be done; including continued data review to ensure these early positive results are sustained and identify program components essential for national scale-up. But Saving Mothers, Giving Life has already demonstrated that giving birth can be much safer in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa.

Selected U. S. Government foreign assistance programs promoting the health of women and girls.


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