An official website of the United States government

Ambassador Cathy Russell on #Africa4Her
February 29, 2016

Cathy Russell serves as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. Previously she served at the White House, coordinating the development of the Obama Administration’s strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. Join Ambassador Russell (@AmbCathyRussell) for a Twitter #YALICHAT on Wednesday, March 2nd at 13:30 UTC. Additional details below.

Two women sit face to face at a table discussing important issues.
U.S. Ambassador Cathy Russell Amb. Russell in a meeting with Wanjira Mathai, the Director, Partnerships for Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER) at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya. (State Department Photo)

The United States invests in women and girls for many of the reasons we invest in young African leaders: it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do.

When policies and programs consider women and girls, they’re more successful. They promote stronger democracies and more durable peace agreements. They increase food security and make for healthier families. They improve public service delivery. And they lead to fewer conflicts and more rapidly growing economies.

As the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, it’s my job to work with my colleagues across the U.S. government and with leaders around the world to advance the status of women and girls. As President Obama said in his trip to Kenya and Ethiopia last summer, countries won’t get ahead unless they include and empower women and girls.

That’s why every day I talk with government officials, world leaders, and women and girls about how we can work together to help women and girls achieve their full potential.

In that past year alone, we’ve made some exciting progress to advance the status of women and girls. Here are just three of the main areas where we’re focused on making a difference.


Last March, the President and First Lady announced Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative that addresses a range of challenges that prevent adolescent girls from attending and completing school.

As part of Let Girls Learn, the United States supported a Women in Science (WiSci) camp in Rwanda last summer. For three weeks, 120 girls from nine countries learned valuable skills in science, technology, engineering, art and design, and mathematics (STEAM).

Health and safety

Education is one way to help empower women and girls. But it takes a complete approach to get the job done—one that considers issues like health and safety, in addition to education. That’s why the United States is also working with Tanzania and Malawi to support women and girls from several angles.

In addition to focusing on education, our efforts will also tackle gender-based violence and health challenges like HIV/AIDS. Malawi and Tanzania are DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) countries, which means they are part of a partnership between the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Nike Foundation to tackle HIV/AIDS.


Financial independence can make an incredible difference for women and their communities. Women are more likely to invest their earnings back into their family, paying for things like their kids’ education and immunizations. And when they own their own business, women are more likely to hire other women, so empowering women entrepreneurs has a multiplier effect within communities.

That’s why we’re focused on empowering women entrepreneurs. Over the past year, the United States has opened physical centers that offer resources to women entrepreneurs in Zambia and Kenya. And just last week I joined Kiva to launch the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund, which will expand access to finance for women entrepreneurs in 84 countries.

The fact is that it will take all of us – men and women, boys and girls – to achieve the progress we need to help women and girls achieve their full potential. But if every one of us takes action, we can make real and lasting progress for gender equality.

You can help make this possible. Take the #Africa4Her pledge and tell us how you will invest in women and girls. Show us how you will raise, educate, protect, support, mentor, and elevate the many women and girls of courage in your life.

Join the YALICHAT on Wednesday, March 2 at:
12:30-13:30 Cape Verde Time (CVT)
13:30-14:30 UTC/GMT
14:30-15:30 West Africa Time (WAT)
15:30-16:30 Central Africa (CAT) and South Africa Standard Time (SAST)
18:30-19:30 Eastern Africa Time (EAT)
19:30-20:30 Seychelles and Mauritius (SCT/MUT)