With International Women's Day to be recognized on Friday, March 8, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) was joined today by 22 Senate colleagues in calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to advance the United States' international leadership on gender equality and women's empowerment. The Senators called for further U.S. action to advance the status of women and girls worldwide by reducing gender-based violence and poverty affecting women and increasing participation by women in peace and political processes. The Senators also called on Secretary Kerry to provide sufficient funding to critical family planning and reproductive health programs.
The letter is co-signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Jeff Merkely (D-OR).
The Senators wrote, "We must continue to build on the progress made to advance the political, economic, social, and civil status of women and girls over the past four years. These actions are critical components of our efforts to promote global stability, peace, and economic growth."
March 7, 2013
Dear Secretary Kerry:
We write to congratulate you on your confirmation and respectfully urge you to continue the tremendous strides in American foreign policy advanced under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton on issues of importance to women and girls.
Having served with you in the U.S. Senate, we know that you have been a great champion for the rights of women and girls around the globe. You have shared our belief that gender equality and women's empowerment must continue to be core principles in American foreign policy and we are confident that you will remain a great champion for these causes in your new position.
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has undertaken enormous efforts to ensure that the advancement of women and girls is integrated into all aspects of U.S. foreign policy. This progress is especially evident in President Obama's January 30th Presidential Memorandum, which was an important step towards institutionalizing gender equality and women's empowerment programs and promoting coordination between all agencies involved in international gender issues.
Despite the progress we have made in this pursuit, it is clear that there is still much more work that needs to be done. Women continue to be underrepresented in peacekeeping forces, peace negotiations and mediation, post-conflict peacebuilding, and political processes. Millions of women are survivors of gender-based violence--including rape, domestic violence, and harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation--and human trafficking each year. Additionally, an estimated 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls and they comprise 70 percent of the one billion people living on less than a dollar a day.
As you begin your leadership at the State Department, we urge you to continue to explore new and innovative ways to promote the rights of women and girls abroad. Specifically, we hope you will take the following actions:
1. Provide sufficient funding for international family planning and reproductive health programs, including funding for the U.N. Population Fund, integrate family planning services in other global health and development programs, and denounce any attempts to legislatively reinstate the Global Gag/Mexico City Policy.
2. Ensure that the Office of Global Women's Issues is provided adequate funding and the necessary staff to implement and expand the numerous programs it has established, particularly the Small Grants Initiative.
3. Maintain the commitments made in the December 2011 U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security--and the corresponding August 2012 Implementation Plan of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security--and work with the Interagency Policy Committee (WPS IPC) to establish oversight mechanisms to effectively monitor and review the actions taken in support of these plans.
4. Continue to prioritize the prevention of and response to gender-based violence and implement the actions established in President Obama's August 2012 Executive Order on this issue, including serving as co-chair of the Interagency Working Group.
5. Convene additional meetings to build on the public-private initiatives announced in October 2012 to prevent child marriage and promote girls' education around the world.
6. Further the development of detailed metrics to specifically evaluate the impact and effectiveness of programs aimed at improving the standing and rights of women and girls and their participation in peace and security decision-making processes.
We must continue to build on the progress made to advance the political, economic, social, and civil status of women and girls over the past four years. These actions are critical components of our efforts to promote global stability, peace, and economic growth. We are confident that you will continue to be a great advocate for these issues in your new capacity and we look forward to working with you on these endeavors.