This Women’s History Month, the Secretary of State John Kerry returned the spotlight to the issues that face women and girls by announcing the U.S. Global Strategy To Empower Adolescent Girls. This initiative will provide 40 million dollars to the PEPFAR DREAMS Innovation Challenge, which focuses on the 10 countries with the highest rates of HIV infection. One of their core interventions focuses on the empowerment of women and girls in these countries. The remaining 7 million are committed to combatting early and forced marriage and promoting girls’ education in Afghanistan.
The U.S. Global Strategy To Empower Adolescent Girls complements the State Department’s Full Participation Fund program and their Let Girls Learn partnership with Peace Corps. While these initiatives show the U.S. Government’s commitment to empowering women and girls worldwide, the government also needs to lead by example through committing to gender equality at home.
It is time for the U.S. Government to commit to eliminating the gender pay gap and to providing paid both maternity and parental leave in addition to ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). If the U.S. Government considers itself a world leader in gender equality, it must commit to gender parity within the State Department and all government entities. In particular, there must be a concerted effort to increase women’s representation in leadership positions within the government. Finally, the government must recognize that gender is not binary – it does not only mean men and women. There must be a strong effort to publicly combat discrimination against transgender individuals and those that do not self-identify as men or a women including the adoption of a federal statute preventing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
While Women’s History Month encourages us to recognize the accomplishments of women and girls, it also provokes us to assess where we are now as a country and search for ways to create a future where equality for all genders is the norm.