The year began with women helping to lead the peaceful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and it ended with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to three extraordinary women who have advanced human rights, peace and democracy: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. Their achievement is a testament to the essential role that women must play in the hard work of preventing conflict and building peace.
In December, President Obama launched the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. The plan charts a roadmap for how the United States will accelerate and institutionalize efforts across the government to advance women’s participation in preventing conflict and keeping peace. This initiative represents a fundamental change in how the U.S. approaches its diplomatic, military, and development-based support to women in areas of conflict, by ensuring that their perspectives and considerations of gender are woven into the very fabric of how we approach critical challenges.
Secretary Clinton likes to call this time the Participation Age, a time where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.
Despite the progress that women and girls have made, many challenges remain to be addressed. Women are disproportionately trapped in poverty and gender-based violence, which is a global scourge. Women are too often absent from village councils and parliaments, the board rooms and negotiating tables where decisions are made affecting them their families and communities. Too many women are denied equal access to healthcare, to education, to the credit they need to launch and grow small businesses.
The United States will continue to make the empowerment of women a cornerstone of our foreign policy. It’s not just the right thing to do. A growing body of research affirms that investing in women is one of the smartest and most strategic things a country can do. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone men and women, boys and girls, the whole world over.
I have been so inspired by the many women of courage I have met in my travels. Often working in obscurity and under dangerous conditions, they continue to push for a brighter tomorrow. So let us mark this day by renewing our resolve to forge a future of equality and opportunity for women and girls everywhere and let us work together and remember to hold true to this mission each and every day of the year.