Shaheen Writes Medium Post on Why Women’s Global Empowerment is Key to Global Stability & Economic Development

July 29, 2021

Shaheen: “We have a pivotal opportunity to initiate lasting change by integrating women and girls into all levels of our policymaking. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.” 

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member and the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), penned a Medium post on why women’s empowerment must be prioritized in U.S. domestic and foreign policy.  

In the op-ed, Shaheen discusses why it’s more important than ever to invest in women as we recover from the global COVID-19 crisis. She outlines how women’s empowerment leads to greater political stability and strengthens democratic institutions, as well as how women’s economic opportunity and workforce participation generates robust economic growth and development. She also points to research illustrating how women leaders tend to invest in more robust public health services – a reality which became clear during the pandemic, given that countries led by women experienced lower COVID mortality rates. 

On the importance of centering women’s voices in U.S. foreign policy: “We know that when women succeed, families and communities succeed. Women are changemakers whose participation advances global democracy and stability. We need female representation on the world stage to accurately reflect the makeup of their communities.” 

And on why now is the pivotal time to act: “It’s now estimated by the World Economic Forum that it will take 135 years before gender equality is reached, adding 36 years to the timeline because of the pandemic. We must not allow this gap to widen, which is why women’s empowerment must define our foreign policy agenda – especially as we rebuild and strengthen societies to safeguard communities from the next catastrophe.” 

Read the full Medium post here and below. 

Successful U.S. Foreign Policy Hinges on Empowering Women  

By U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen    

July 29, 2021 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, women and girls around the world faced significant, dangerous challenges — from disproportionate rates of violence to denied access to health care and barriers to education. When the COVID-19 crisis struck, hard-won progress to address these challenges was quickly reversed. Gender inequities worsened and the participation of women in economies and politics shrank. It’s now estimated by the World Economic Forum that it will take 135 years before gender equality is reached, adding 36 years to the timeline because of the pandemic. We must not allow this gap to widen, which is why women’s empowerment must define our foreign policy agenda — especially as we rebuild and strengthen societies to safeguard communities from the next catastrophe.

We need more voices asking how women’s rights are impacted by the policy priorities we pursue at home and abroad. I believe that under this new administration, we have a pivotal opportunity to initiate lasting change by integrating women and girls into all levels of our policymaking. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. I’m encouraged by the Biden administration’s creation of a White House Gender Policy Council, an early signal that it will prioritize the inclusion of women in our domestic and foreign policy, national security structures and every sector of our economy. U.S. policies should reflect our values, which is why gender equality should be at the heart of our policy goals — at home and abroad.

Securing Women’s Voices at the Table

We know that when women succeed, families and communities succeed. Women are changemakers whose participation advances global democracy and stability. We need female representation on the world stage to accurately reflect the makeup of their communities. Research from the Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) finds that women are more successful at building coalitions and reaching consensus. In fact, when women are at the negotiating table for peace negotiations and conflict resolution, those peace plans are 35 percent more likely to succeed.

That’s why I wrote legislation to require the U.S. government to promote the meaningful participation of women in peace negotiations and conflict resolution. The Women, Peace and Security Act was signed into law in 2017, but it’s still an uphill battle to secure women’s rights to shape their own futures. Just 21 women head states or governments in 193 countries around the world, and only four countries have parliaments with a base level of equality. Only 15 percent of the world’s ambassadors are women. This portends especially poorly in politically unstable regions of the world, like Afghanistan. I’ve been a staunch advocate for the inclusion of women in the Afghan peace process because their leadership is key to democracy and will help secure the best chance for lasting success of peace negotiations.

Strengthening Health Care Systems

Enshrining gender equality in power systems can also improve the quality of public health for everyone. Studies show that women in leadership are more likely to dedicate substantive resources to public health, including investments in medical and preventative care, social services and post-secondary education, which all correlate to lower mortality rates. That reality bore out during the pandemic: Countries with women at the helm during the public health crisis fared “systemically and significantly better” with more decisive policies than those headed by their male counterparts, and with death rates that were six times lower, according to researchers at the University of Liverpool.

Women in leadership are also more likely to prioritize accessible, high-quality reproductive care that paves the way for the empowerment of women and girls. Over 800 women die every day in pregnancy and childbirth. When women are denied the basic right to make their own choices about their bodies, it is not just restricting their health. The denial of reproductive and sexual rights can impact their education, economic wellbeing and livelihoods. That’s why we should advance women’s reproductive health across the world, including through my efforts to repeal the Global Gag Rule, which bans organizations from using non-U.S. funds to provide comprehensive family planning services. This toxic rule forces clinics to choose between providing limited reproductive health services while accepting U.S. foreign aid, or providing inclusive family planning and reproductive health care with a limited budget. Access to health care determines women’s social, economic and political life, so gender equality in health systems must be a U.S. priority.

Economic Gains from Leveraging Women’s Full Potential

Expanding women’s full participation in society also leads to faster development, poverty reduction and durable economic success. Economic opportunity for women is linked with lower rates of gender-based violence, better access to education for them and their children and improved access to health care. When women have increased earning potential, they have more opportunities for better economic mobility, security and wellbeing. On the macro level, gender equity strengthens and diversifies businesses, creating more durable economies: Research shows that industries which embrace gender-inclusive norms attract a greater pool of talent, resulting in a richer exchange of ideas and higher productivity. Research by McKinsey & Company estimates that the global GDP would rise by $28 trillion — a quarter of the world’s current GDP — if we closed the global gender gap in workforce participation. Since the pandemic decimated women’s workforce participation — with 41 percent of women working in sectors like hospitality and retail that were hardest hit by the pandemic — the U.S. must particularly focus its attention on restoring economic opportunities for women around the world.

I will continue to fiercely advocate for women and girls around the globe, from improving access to health care to ending gender-based violence, addressing barriers to education and securing women leadership roles in peace and conflict settings. Making the empowerment of half the world’s population a U.S. priority is more than a moral obligation — there are rippling impacts that directly affect the quality of life for women, their families and their societies. Global women’s issues must be treated with the urgency they deserve and undergird all U.S. policy priorities. I look forward to partnering with the Biden administration to make that happen as we uphold American values at home and around the globe.

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