Priorities

When women do better, countries do better. Yet in every country women and girls face unique challenges that hold them back from full, meaningful participation in all parts of society. The United States is committed to advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through U.S. foreign policy, because it’s part of who we are and it’s essential to global peace, prosperity, and security.

The State Department has identified four key priorities to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls around the world.

Women, Peace, and Security

A growing body of evidence shows that women offer unique contributions to making and keeping peace in countries around the world– and those contributions lead to better outcomes not just for women, but for entire societies.

Yet around the world, women are historically underrepresented in decision-making about peace and stability, whether it’s a peace negotiation or reform of the security sector. When they aren’t at the table, we all lose. Further, a growing recognition of the prevalence of sexual violence in crises and conflicts poses unique challenges to making, and keeping, peace. Even in places where wars have officially come to an end, or where there is simmering low intensity conflict, women and girls are often still affected by high levels of violence and insecurity. Widespread impunity and a breakdown in the rule of law can also contribute to higher rates of gender based violence at societal levels, in communities and families.

These issues are addressed in the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, which outlines U.S. government commitments toward:

  • ensuring that women participate more fully in decision-making about peace negotiations and reconstruction
  • protecting women and children from harm and abuse in conflict affected areas
  • promoting women’s roles in conflict prevention; and addressing the needs of women and girls in disaster and crisis response

The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues leads the oversight and coordination of the National Action Plan, as well as and the Department’s Implementation Plan.

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Women’s Economic Empowerment

Research shows that gender equality is "smart economics." The untapped potential of women remains a lost opportunity for economic growth and development the world can ill afford.

Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise development at the micro, small, and medium enterprise levels, as well as enhances business management and returns on investment.

In addition to boosting economic growth, investing in women produces a multiplier effect: women reinvest a large portion of their income in their families and communities. They also play key roles in creating peaceful and stable societies, important factors for economic growth.

Unfortunately, these benefits have not been universally recognized and have therefore not translated into women’s full economic participation. Women still face obstacles when trying to establish new businesses or expand existing ones. Among the biggest hurdles are discriminatory laws, regulations and business conditions, as well as women’s lack of access to property rights, finance, training, technology, markets, mentors, and networks.

That’s why the State Department has made this issue a key part of our agenda to advance gender equality. To guide our efforts, the Department released a strategy for women’s economic empowerment, which outlines policy objectives as well as a range of examples of the Department’s efforts, including programs and diplomatic initiatives.

Learn more about the strategy here.

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Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence is a global challenge that affects almost everyone, and that’s why we need to end it.

More than one in three women around the world will be affected by violence during their life, whether it’s at home, in their neighborhood, or in conflict. From rape to domestic violence to sexual harassment, gender-based violence is pervasive, and no country has ended it.

While we’re still working on this issue, the United States has seen first-hand that progress is possible when governments, service providers, and civil society work together in a comprehensive way. That’s why we have a global strategy on gender-based violence that focuses on both prevention and response.

The United States Strategy To Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally advances the Department’s efforts to address gender inequality and raise the status of women and girls around the world.

This interagency strategy underscores the U.S. Government’s commitment to preventing and responding to gender-based violence, which undermines not only the safety, dignity, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also threatens public health, economic stability, and security.

The Strategy outlines four key objectives:

  • to increase coordination of gender-based violence prevention and response efforts among U.S. Government agencies and with other stakeholders
  • to enhance integration of gender-based violence prevention and response efforts into existing U.S. Government work
  • to improve collection, analysis, and use of data and research to enhance gender-based violence prevention and response efforts
  • to enhance or expand U.S. Government programming that addresses gender-based violence.

At Congress’ request, the Strategy was drafted by the Department of State, USAID, and other relevant U.S. agencies.

Click here to learn more about the U.S. Global Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence.

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Adolescent Girls

We can make progress on some of the biggest challenges facing the world by investing in adolescent girls.

Adolescence is a fork in the road for girls’ lives. On one path, an adolescent girl will remain in school, be more likely to marry later and have fewer and healthier children. If she graduates, she is more likely to earn an income that she will invest back into her family and community – and do so at higher rates than men do.

The other path is much harder. When an adolescent girl drops out of school, she faces increased risks of early marriage, early pregnancy, HIV infection, and maternal morbidities. She is more likely to be unskilled, have less earning power, and be less able to meaningfully participate in society.

Efforts to ensure that adolescent girls are educated, healthy, and safe yield benefits not only for girls themselves, but for their families and communities, and are among the most strategic investments we can make. To break the cycle of poverty and insecurity, our efforts must reach girls before they arrive at this intersection of adolescence.

That’s why the United States launched the Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls. This is the first U.S. strategy to focus on this critical population– and, as far as we know, the United States is the first country in the world to develop a strategy solely focused on the protection and advancement of adolescent girls. It sets out a framework for the United States government to tackle the range of challenges facing adolescent girls in a comprehensive way.

Click here to learn more about the U.S. strategy on adolescent girls.