Empowering Women and Girls in the United States and Abroad

This week, the Obama Administration took two major steps in empowering women and girls both here in the United States and abroad.

On Monday, we announced Equal Futures, a partnership between the U.S. and other nations to advance the rights and opportunities of women and girls. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton led the launch in New York.

At last year’s UN General Assembly, President Obama challenged member nations to “break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls.”

To answer the call, on Monday, I joined Secretary Clinton and leaders from around the world to launch the Equal Futures Partnership.

Founding members, including the United States and 12 other countries, each shared new national commitments to further women’s political and economic participation. For the United States, our Equal Futures commitments will:

  • Expand opportunity for women and girls in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields
  • Expand economic security for domestic violence victims
  • Support women entrepreneurs
  • Promote civic and public leadership for girls

In each of these areas, we are working to strengthen government policies and programs and partner with private and non-profit sectors to achieve our objectives.  For more information on our commitments, read here.

The second major step to empower women and girls took place yesterday, when the President spoke on human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting.

Human trafficking is a fundamental human rights issue, and according to the UN, the overwhelming majority of victims are women and girls.

President Obama called human trafficking a debasement of our common humanity, and that it must be called what it is: modern slavery.

President Obama also made clear that the United States will continue to be a leader in the global movement to end human trafficking. At CGI, he announced a series of additional steps in partnership with civil society and the private sector, including issuing anExecutive Order to strengthen protections against trafficking in federal contracting.

These commitments build on the previous work that the U.S. has done to identify trafficking networks and strengthen protections for foreign-born workers.

President Obama also shared the stories of brave women who had been trafficked:

Marie Godet Niyonyota, from the Congo, who was kidnapped by rebels, and turned into a slave. She was abused — physically and sexually and gotten pregnant 5 times. In one awful battle, her children were killed — all five of them. Miraculously, she survived and escaped. And with care and support, she began to heal. And she learned to read and write and sew, and today Marie is back home, working toward a new future.

And Sheila White, who grew up in the Bronx. Fleeing an abusive home, she fell in with a guy who said he’d protect her.  Instead, he sold her — just 15 years old — to men who raped her and beat her, and burned her with irons. And finally, after years — with the help of a non-profit led by other survivors — she found the courage to break free and get the services she needed. Sheila earned her GED. Today she is a powerful, fierce advocate who helped to pass a new anti-trafficking law right here in New York.

As the President said, these women endured unspeakable horror, “but in their unbreakable will, in their courage, in their resilience, they remind us that this cycle can be broken; victims can become not only survivors, they can become leaders and advocates, and bring about change.”

He concluded with a message to the millions of trafficking victims:

“We see you. We hear you. We insist on your dignity,” he said. “And we share your belief that if just given the chance, you will forge a life equal to your talents and worthy of your dreams.”

Watch and share the video of Secretary Clinton’s remarks.

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