Global stability, peace, and economic prosperity, can never be achieved without the full participation and empowerment of women. There's a volume of research and data showing that greater investments in women's health and education can lead to greater economic growth and more robust societies. Experience shows that when women’s voices are fully integrated into peace negotiations and security efforts, conflicts can be avoided and peace is longer lasting. When women participate equally with men in political and civic processes, governments can be more representative and often more effective.
As Clinton has said time and again, strengthening women and girls around the world is not simply the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do.
Already in his first month in office, Kerry has demonstrated both his leadership and commitment. At his Senate confirmation hearing at the end of January, he “committed to the ongoing significant efforts that Secretary Clinton has invested in” to integrate women’s issues into the State Department, and to advance the status of women around the world.
He pledged to maintain the Secretary’s Office of Global Women's Issues, and to support the work of an appointed Ambassador at Large who could lead the Department’s efforts. And he emphasized the vital importance of integrating women's issues into department’s key activities – especially when it comes to promoting peace in conflict regions.
Here are three areas where I believe Kerry could advance the work of the past four years – and make a lasting difference:
The vast majority of peace treaties in the past have broken down because they failed to include the voices of women and deal with the issues that women know must be addressed. To build lasting peace agreements, governments must ensure women are at the negotiating table and fully empowered in all post-conflict decisionmaking. This will be especially important in Afghanistan during this period of transition. At his confirmation hearing, Kerry recognized this truth. “There can't be an effective peace, and there won't be, in Afghanistan if we can't hold onto the gains and continue them, continue the progress that is being made with respect to women’s participation in Afghan society,” he said.