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Happy International Women’s Day!

On International Women's Day, Heather Higginbottom describes how the President's FY2013 Budget builds on progress the Administration has made when it comes to the advancement of women.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the significant gains made by women throughout our history, to recognize those who made those gains possible, and to reaffirm that their legacy is working to make a world that protects the rights, security, and dignity of women everywhere.

From his first days in office, President Obama has made a steadfast commitment to honoring that legacy by ensuring women have access to the full range of opportunities and freedoms that all people in all places deserve. From establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls, to fighting pay discrimination through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, expanding women’s access to health care, and combatting international human trafficking, the Administration has made great strides protecting the rights and ensuring the equality of women in the United States and around the world.

Of course, much work remains. As President Obama has said, “we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.” That’s why in his FY 2013 Budget, the President put forward a series of proposals to protect and build on the progress we’ve already made when it comes to the advancement of women:

  • Strengthening efforts to combat violence against women: Despite progress made in the last 16 years, too many women – particularly young women – are beaten, raped, and stalked every year. The Budget includes $412.5 million in Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women grants and assistance, including support for shelters and services for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
  • Strengthening Anti-Discrimination Enforcement: Substantial investments that have been made by the Administration to strengthen civil rights enforcement against racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, religious, gender, and gender identity discrimination continue in the 2013 Budget. Even during these tough fiscal times, the Budget also proposes an increase for the Community Relations Service in the Department of Justice to fight hate crimes and provides a $14 million (4 percent) increase over the 2012 enacted level for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), which is responsible for enforcing Federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee.
  • Supporting evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention: To further reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, the Budget puts $260 million toward teen pregnancy prevention and related efforts.
  • Improving health care services for women veterans: To ensure that the women who served our country receive the care they need throughout their lives, the Budget includes a $403 million investment, a 17 percent increase from the 2012 enacted amount, for gender-specific health care for eligible women veterans to address their overall health care needs.
  • Supporting women-owned businesses: According to recently-released Census data, there are nearly 7.8 million women-owned firms, and women’s business ownership grew by 20 percent between 2000 and 2007. To help businesses thrive, the Budget will support growth and lending, enhance small business access to credit, and cut taxes for small businesses seeking to grow and expand.
  • Helping states provide paid family leave to workers: Too many families must make the painful choice between the care of their families and a paycheck they desperately need. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take job-protected unpaid time off, but millions of families can’t afford to use unpaid leave. The Budget supports a $5 million State Paid Leave Fund within the Department of Labor that will provide technical assistance and support to States that want to establish paid-leave programs.
  • Enhancing investments in STEM education: The Budget provides $141 billion overall for research and development in science and engineering. It also allocates $80 million from the Department of Education to prepare effective STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers and funds a jointly-administered mathematics education initiative, with $30 million from the Department of Education and $30 million from the National Science Foundation, to support evidence-based approaches at the K-12 and undergraduate levels. These programs will be developed in conjunction with a Government-wide effort to increase the impact of Federal investments in math and science education by ensuring that all programs supporting K-12 and undergraduate education adhere to consistent standards of effectiveness. 
  • Supporting global maternal, child, and reproductive health: To improve the health and well-being of women and children in the developing world, the Budget provides $578 million for maternal and child health programs and $530 million for family planning and reproductive health. These programs support high-impact, low-cost interventions that reduce child and maternal mortality, keep mothers healthy, and enable children to grow into healthy, productive adults.

Together with the rest of the President’s Budget, these proposals will help us build an economy and a country where women and all Americans have the chance to pursue their dreams. And in the coming weeks and months, we look forward to working with Congress to put these proposals to work.

Heather Higginbottom is Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget