Today is Hillary Clinton’s last day of work at the State Department. It is also the day when John Kerry will begin his work as secretary of state. As this transition takes place, one issue we have paid close attention to is the future of U.S. leadership for women’s health and rights globally, which Clinton has made a priority during her tenure. This week, however, the Obama administration has made clear that this administration will continue its official policy of fostering tremendous advancements for women and girls around the world. This is great news for women and young people worldwide and signals the lasting legacy of Clinton’s leadership in promoting women and girls.
Secretary Clinton left an incredible policy framework for promoting women’s rights — under her leadership, the State Department issued numerous policies that aim to ensure women’s rights are a top priority throughout our foreign policy, from the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, to the USAID Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality to the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. These are meaningful policies that stand to have a huge impact — but there is a lot of work to do to fully implement them and realize that goal.
On Wednesday, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that aims to strengthen the U.S. Government’s capacity to promote women’s rights through the State Department. As the Presidential Memorandum begins:
“Promoting gender equality and advancing the status of all women and girls around the world remains one of the greatest unmet challenges of our time, and one that is vital to achieving our overall foreign policy objectives. Ensuring that women and girls, including those most marginalized, are able to participate fully in public life, are free from violence, and have equal access to education, economic opportunity, and health care increases broader economic prosperity, as well as political stability and security.”
The memorandum calls on the secretary of state to designate an ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, lead the Office of Global Women’s Issues and implement existing policies, strategies and action plans to promote gender equality.
In his confirmation hearing, John Kerry also expressed his commitment to continuing leadership on this issue, particularly through the Office of Global Women’s Issues and promoting U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). As John Kerry becomes secretary of state this afternoon, the promotion of women’s equality is not only an issue he chooses to continue leading on — it is a job responsibility set forth by his boss, President Barack Obama. And all Americans — and women and men around the world as well — will be better for it.
As Clinton said in an interview with Andrea Mitchell this week about her leadership on women’s health and rights, “I do value it as part of my legacy because I think it’s commonsense. If we don’t pay attention to the lives and roles of women, we will pay a price.”