This morning, I had the opportunity to address Oxfam’s Sister Ambassadors at their International Women’s Day Summit in Washington, D.C. I was proud to be able to say that over the last three years, our work with organizations like Oxfam has resulted in more international support for food security, more game-changing innovations, and most importantly, more people living without hunger.
However, we have much more work to do, particularly when it comes to confronting the often tragic circumstances facing women and girls around the world.
Today, women make up the majority of those living below the poverty line. Women grow more than half the food produced in many developing countries, but when prices rise, they are often the first to go hungry. Discrimination, both legal and cultural, still prevents too many women from contributing fully to their families and their communities.
President Obama believes that the United States must fight hunger, both at home and abroad, and he believes we can only win that fight if we empower women to be true agents of change. From the day he took office, the President has worked to, as he has put it, “strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”
Over the last 20 years, agricultural development fell off the radar as a global issue, and I am proud to say that President Obama changed that. He has used diplomacy, plus the leverage from America’s own commitments, to make sure that feeding the world is once again an international priority.
Even as President Obama rallied support from other countries, he has also led by example here at home. From making the case for our aid investments, to getting the most out of every dollar we invest, to supporting new research and development, we are helping to prevent famine, and build food security over the long term.
Finally, we are ensuring that the world’s women are included and empowered in the fight against hunger. Just last week, I joined Administrator Shah and others to launch USAID’s new Policy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment. He spoke about the “Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index,” a new tool that will help us measure where women are getting the support they need and where we need to be doing more.
We are taking these steps because we know that everyone – both women and men – benefits from closing gender gaps. And we know that helping to fight hunger and global instability will ultimately make America more secure and more prosperous.
That is why President Obama will continue to partner with leaders from the public and private sectors, and with extraordinary organizations such as Oxfam, as we continue to save lives and improve communities. It was a pleasure to be a part of such an important summit, and I look forward to continuing our work together.
Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls