First Lady Obama, Sec. Clinton Mark International Women’s Day

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to mark International Women’s Day on Tuesday by honoring recent gains in addressing global women’s issues while reflecting on the scope of the task of achieving gender equity in the future, the Associated Press reports.

“Time and again, we have seen that countries across the globe are more prosperous, they’re more peaceful when women are more equal and have the rights and opportunities they deserve,” Obama said at a White House reception honoring the work of women’s rights advocates. “While we’ve made some important strides, all of you in this room know better than anyone else that this work is far from finished. … We have so, so much more to do,” she added (3/8).

VOA News reports that earlier in the day, Secretary Clinton “serve[d] notice that the Obama administration will make women’s empowerment a policy priority in its dealings with emerging democracies in the Middle East” (Gollust, 3/8).  “The secretary delivered her remarks at a ceremony honoring 10 women for efforts from promoting good governance in Cameroon and the education of girls in Pakistan, to combating scourges such as sexual harassment in China, domestic abuse in Afghanistan and so-called ‘honor killings’ in Jordan,” the AP/Washington Post writes (Klapper, 3/8).

“The women in Egypt and Tunisia and other nations have just as much right as the men to remake their governments, to make them responsive, accountable, transparent,” Clinton said, according to a State Department transcript from the event. “The United States will stand firmly for the proposition that women must be included in whatever process goes forward. No government can succeed if it excludes half of its people from important decisions,” Clinton said. The transcript also includes video from Clinton’s address (3/8).

NPR’s Tell Me More features an interview with U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, in which she describes her role in the post first created by President Barack Obama and efforts to boost women’s empowerment in the U.S. and abroad (Martin, 3/8).

Foreign Policy features a Q&A with U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, where she describes the task of convincing governments that funding efforts promoting women’s rights are in their best interest. “We need to work on showing more clearly – with stronger arguments – how important women are as an economic actor, as a political actor, as a social actor, so that presidents and prime ministers see how they cannot lose the important contribution that women are in the community,” Bachelet said (Dickinson, 3/8).

PBS NewsHour Reports On Gender-Based Violence, Family Planning Education Efforts In Guatemala

A PBS NewsHour piece on gender-based violence in Guatemala reflects on the history of violence against women in the country, recent efforts to stop such actions by training female peer leaders to educate women in their villages about self-esteem, and education and health opportunities. Jennifer Catino and Alejandra Colom of Population Council, Guatemala’s Attorney General Claudia Paz, and female leaders going door-to-door to educate women in their communities are quoted (Suarez, 3/7).

A second PBS NewsHour piece examines efforts to educate women about family planning in Guatemala. The segment shadows a woman traveling to rural communities in the country to teach them about birth control, noting how men’s decision-making over family planning and religion often dominate.

The piece notes the commitment of the Obama administration to investments in family planning, and quotes USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who states, “Family planning has been underinvested in and is absolutely critical to the safety, security and stability of many of the countries we work in around the world. … There’s so much data that shows us that as total fertility rates go down in countries, the health and welfare of children, families and, frankly, of the community overall goes up.”

Lisbeth Contreras of the Guatemalan family-planning association, APROFAM; Janeen Simon of Women’s International Network for Guatemalan Solutions; Oscar Julio Vian Morales, Archbishop of Guatemala; and workers on the ground in Guatemala also are quoted (Suarez, 3/8).

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