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 18th at 13:00 UTC. Additional details below.
As young African leaders and followers of the YALI Network, you already know that the United States invests in women and girls because it’s the right thing to do for gender equality and the smart thing to do for our foreign policy.
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 worldwide. Every day I talk with government officials, world leaders, and women and girls around the world about how women have contributed to global progress and why we need to break the barriers keeping women and girls from fully participating in society.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting ten women from ten countries with the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. These women, including Marie Claire Tchecola from Guinea and Beatrice Epaye from the Central African Republic, have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment.
As an emergency room nurse in Guinea, Marie Claire Tchecola has been on the front lines of the fight against Ebola. When she became infected with the Ebola virus, she took precautions to protect other workers and her family from contracting the disease – and when she recovered, she went back to work. Through her leadership in the Ebola Survivors Association of Guinea, Marie Claire continues to spread awareness about the disease and fight the stigma associated with its survivors.
When Seleka rebels stormed the streets of Bangui and overtook the Central African Republic’s capital, one of their first stops was the office of Beatrice Epaye, an outspoken activist who raised her voice to condemn the horrors of civil war and to call for peace, human rights, and good governance. Refusing to be intimidated, Beatrice took to the radio and met with local and international organizations, eventually becoming the president of the Preparatory Committee for the National Dialogue.
Ms. Tchecola and Ms. Epaye are proof of how women can and do transform societies with little fanfare through their everyday actions. Yet in every country – from Guinea to Germany to Guatemala – women and girls face challenges and barriers that keep them from fully participating. A family may choose to send a son, but not a daughter, to school because there’s only enough money for one child’s fees. A woman may be kept from launching a new business because she can’t access capital. Or bias and stereotypes about women’s roles in society will keep a woman from her rightful seat at the peacekeeping table or in Parliament.
It will take all of us – men and women, boys and girls – to achieve the progress we need to unleash the power of women and girls. But if every one of us takes action, we can break down these barriers and open doors for women and girls of courage.
I urge you all, both my fellow women and our male allies, to 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 18th at:
12:00-13:00 Cape Verde Time (CVT)
14:00-15:00 West Africa Time (WAT)
15:00-16:00 Central Africa (CAT) and South Africa Standard Time (SAST)
18:00-19:00 Eastern Africa Time (EAT)
19:00-20:00 Seychelles and Mauritius (SCT/MUT)