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Women and Foreign Policy Update - May 2016

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May 2016

Women and Foreign Policy Update

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Sustainable Development and the Data Revolution



Last month, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy program Rachel Vogelstein presided over a roundtable with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom to discuss U.S. government efforts to advance progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The meeting was part of a high-level series supported by the UN Foundation to explore implementation of the world’s new development agenda. Higginbottom highlighted U.S. government initiatives to integrate high-quality data into development work around the world, including the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data launched by the United States and other countries on the margins of the seventieth Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 70). The Deputy Secretary stressed the pivotal role the U.S. government can play in identifying and filling existing data gaps, promoting effective data partnerships, and improving the use of data to measure progress toward the SDGs—including Goal Five, which aims to achieve gender equality worldwide.  Listen to audio of the event »



Global Collaboration to Combat Child Marriage

Babatunde Osotimehin, under-secretary-general of the United Nations (UN) and executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), examines the promise of the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, a newly-launched collaboration among governmental, nongovernmental, and UN partners. He writes that the Global Programme—which is the flagship program for realizing the SDG target aimed at ending child marriage around the world by 2030—offers a framework for promoting the right to delay marriage, addressing the factors that fuel this practice, and supporting already-married girls. Despite the pervasive nature of this practice—one in nine girls in the developing world each year who are married before the age of fifteen—Osotimehin sounds a note of optimism, suggesting that “global momentum and opportunities to make significant progress on ending child marriage have never been greater.”  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »

Five Questions for Tina Brown

As part of the Women and Foreign Policy program’s new Five Questions series, Rachel Vogelstein speaks with Tina Brown, journalist, editor, author, and founder and chief executive of Tina Brown Live Media, about the seventh annual Women in the World Summit. Brown highlights several critical issues for women across the globe, including access to legal identification and economic empowerment. In particular, Brown emphasizes the importance of improving women’s participation in peace and security processes in order to confront pressing security threats across the globe. In the interview, Brown identifies a strong “connection between women’s status and peace and security—in the sense that a country that treats its women badly is bound to also be a national security risk. That is what has been proven again and again.”  Read the interview on Women Around the World »

Opportunities for Adolescent Girls



In a blog post on Women Around the World, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Jamille Bigio reflects on her recent research conducted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she interviewed adolescent Ethiopian girls in a transit center who had attempted to migrate to the Middle East. Bigio connects the experiences of one girl—who fled her small town in southern Ethiopia due to the lack of educational and economic opportunities and because of the threat of a forced marriage to a much older man—to global efforts to invest in adolescent girls. Bigio notes the Ethiopian government’s recent commitment to eliminate child marriage by 2025 and argues that “African and international leaders have picked up the call to invest in adolescent girls—making the case that these investments benefit girls, their families, and their societies.”  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »



Breaking Barriers to Maternal Health

Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), shares insight into the scourge of maternal mortality, highlighting persistent obstacles to maternal health and rights. Sippel asserts that “becoming pregnant is still one of the most dangerous things a woman can do in her lifetime,” highlighting six fundamental barriers to maternal health, including lacking family planning services and weak health systems. To advance progress against these obstacles, Sippel urges for greater leadership and a coordinated global movement to promote the health and human rights of all women and girls.  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »

Ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

CFR Fellow Catherine Powell hosted a roundtable meeting in April with Gambian activist Jaha Dukureh, recognized by Time magazine as one of the one hundred most influential people of 2016 for her work advocating against female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Acting U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Arsalan Suleman joined Dukureh and Powell in the discussion following a screening of Jaha’s Journey, a documentary film about Dukureh’s struggle as a survivor of FGM/C who was forced to marry at age fifteen, and her subsequent advocacy to end the traditional practice in her home country and globally. Writing about the film screening on Women Around the World, Powell notes that “engaging nontraditional allies for women’s rights, including men and boys as well as religious leaders, in the discussion and efforts against FGM/C is a vital aspect of ending this harmful practice against women.”  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »

Family Planning and Sustainable Development



In a blog post on Women Around the World, Ellen Starbird, director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, examines family planning as a lynchpin issue for the world’s new sustainable development agenda. The sustainable development goals are organized into five broad themes—people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership—and Starbird argues that access to voluntary family planning services affords potential gains across all five, because it helps prevent child and maternal deaths, boost economic growth, and offset water scarcity and climate-induced migration. Starbird writes, “Quite simply, family planning is a best buy, and can help make the world a better place for all of us.”  Read the blog post on Women Around the World »



Women in the U.S. Armed Services

CFR Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, joined Juliet Beyler, principal director of force resiliency in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; and Agnes Gereben Schaefer, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, at a CFR meeting on the future of women in the U.S. Armed Services. In a blog post previewing the meeting, Lemmon analyzes the Pentagon’s decision to open all combat positions to women, the challenges of integrating women into today’s armed forces, and the potential military, diplomacy, and national security benefits. She reflects on the important lessons—both successes and challenges—to be learned from the experiences of women who have already served, including the women of the elite cultural support unit profiled in her book Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield. Lemmon predicts that more change can be expected to come to the makeup of the U.S. military. Watch video of the meeting »



Women Entrepreneurs and Economic Potential

In a 2013 CFR Policy Innovation Memorandum, “Banking on Growth: U.S. Support for Small and Medium Enterprises in Least-Developed Countries,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon analyzes policies to boost the performance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world, which are frequently owned and run by women. Women SME owners have shown great potential in spurring economies, but, as Lemmon argues, “[they] are often unable to acquire the skills, resources, and support necessary to grow and sustain their businesses.” Policies that support women entrepreneurs hold the potential to reduce economic gender gaps, accelerate development, and stabilize communities.  Read the Policy Innovation Memorandum »


The Women and Foreign Policy Program Blog

The Women and Foreign Policy program’s dedicated blog, Women Around the World, serves as a forum for CFR fellows as well as voices from government, academia, civil society, and the private sector, to explore new research and ideas about the relationship between the advancement of women and U.S. foreign policy interests. Sign up to receive automatic alerts of new blog posts and follow us on Twitter at @CFR_WFP for additional commentary on noteworthy news about women and girls. 


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CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program works with leading scholars to analyze how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy objectives and to bring the status of women into the mainstream foreign policy debate. Among its areas of focus are global health and education, the role of women in peacekeeping, and women’s economic participation.


Rachel Vogelstein
Director and Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Catherine Powell
Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

Jamille Bigio
Adjunct Senior Fellow, Women and Foreign Policy Program

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