Helping Women is Helping the Entire Planet by Ayala Emmett

Statement by the President on International Women’s Day

“Today, on International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which every woman and girl enjoys the full range of rights and freedoms that is her birthright.

Women and girls make extraordinary contributions every day across all fields of human endeavor, including in business, education, sports, art, science, agriculture, parenting, and governance.  Without these contributions, economies would collapse, communities would fail, and families would fall apart.  And yet, in too many places around the world, women still struggle to rise out of their status as second-class citizens.  They are denied opportunities for full economic and political participation.  Some are forced to marry and have children when they are still children themselves, while abusive practices, such female genital mutilation/cutting, still persist in too many places.  Moreover, secondary education-arguably the most powerful tool for helping girls escape cycles of poverty and abuse and take control of their lives–remains beyond the reach of tens of millions of girls around the world.

That is why I am proud that my Administration launched the Let Girls Learn initiative, which is already helping adolescent girls around the world to surmount the barriers that stand between them and a quality education.   It is also why I am pleased to announce that, in the coming days, Secretary of State John Kerry will be releasing the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls, which lays out a whole-of-government approach to provide the next generation of women the tools they need to pursue their aspirations.

We know that when we invest in women and girls, we are not only helping them, we are helping the entire planet.  A future in which all women and girls around the world are allowed to rise and achieve their full potential will be a brighter, more peaceful, and more prosperous future for us all.”

That was President Barak Obama’s statement on International Women’s Day in 2016. Rereading it today I thought it was a good reminder of what presidents could do for women. To President Obama’s poetry I would like to add a few words of prose about how much work we still have to do right now in the United States.

American women struggled for civil rights for a long time. In the town where I live, on November 5 1872, Susan B. Anthony voted and got arrested a few days later. It took almost five decades of struggle for American women to get the vote in 1920. Women found out, however, that voting was just the beginning. America is still waiting for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” This fundamental human right, the right of non-discriminating is still looking for 38 states to affirm it.

Today, House Democrats stood on the steps of the US Capitol as they pointed out the retreat of the Trump administration from commitment to women’s reproductive rights, women of color, Muslim women, trans women, those who earn minimum wage, women immigrants and refugee women. American voters have a right to know if Republicans in Congress will represent the interests of women. More importantly, will Republicans have the courage and decency to distance themselves from the shameful way that candidate Trump talked about women. Will they be strong enough to do it legislatively? Will they support and expand ACA or gut it, will they defund Planned Parenthood that provides essential health care for millions of women.

This year’s theme is Be Bold for Change. Today March 8, many are acting bold for democracy, demonstrating, protesting making demands. Right now they are gathered at the southeast corner of Central Park in New York City and in many places around the country as part of the US strike for women’s rights, for women’s economic equality and freedom from violence.

Here and around the world we recall what the day is all about: “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” I include Hillary Clinton among the distinguished line of leading women.