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Coming together to empower women and girls

Tina Tchen and Stephen Pomper attend the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo to discuss the Administration's initiatives on girls' education and women's empowerment.

President Obama often says that no society can realize its full potential without engaging women and drawing on the talents of half of its population. On August 28 and 29, we were in Tokyo with men and women from around the world who are firmly committed to this principle, and are working with passion and creativity to help women participate fully in the economic and political lives of their communities.  The event was the second annual World Assembly for Women (WAW!), and our host was Prime Minister Abe of Japan, who has made women’s empowerment a policy priority. 

We were delighted to represent the United States at this important event, not least because it gave us (and colleagues from the State Department, USAID, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation) an opportunity to discuss and hear from others about Administration initiatives on girls’ education; women, peace, and security; and women’s political and economic empowerment. 

In particular:

-- Tina, after introducing a video message from First Lady Michelle Obama, joined a high-level panel discussion on the importance of girls’ education.  This discussion was an opportunity to highlight the work the United States is doing under the Let Girls Learn initiative to help adolescent girls around the world complete their education, including through a partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.  Other participants included First Lady of Japan Akie Abe, former First Lady of the United Kingdom Cherie Blair, First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani, and Irina Georgieva Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.

-- Separately, Steve participated in a roundtable discussion on engaging women in peacebuilding, and shared U.S. Government insights on the value of a National Action Plan to advance Women, Peace, and Security.  The roundtable brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including policymakers from conflict-affected states and policymakers from donor countries and representatives of humanitarian organizations, from multilateral institutions, and academic institutions.  Participants focused on the importance of involving women in efforts to prevent conflict, the need to provide protection for women in conflict and post-conflict situations, the importance of women's participation in peacebuilding processes, and the need to ensure that women are able to share in recovery efforts. 

-- USAID's Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, Susan Markham, chaired a successful meeting of the Equal Futures Partnership during the WAW!.  This was the first Equal Futures meeting to take place outside the United States and the lively discussion focused on three key topics: economic empowerment of survivors of gender-based violence, increasing the number of women in middle and senior management and on executive boards, and increasing female labor force participation and entrepreneurship.  With the help of experts from UN Women, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Asia Foundation, Equal Futures members discussed common challenges and promising practices in these areas.  The Equal Futures Partnership was launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senior Advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett in September 2012 in response to President Obama’s challenge to other heads of state to break down barriers to women’s economic and political participation.  In three years, a partnership that began with 11 governments has more than doubled to include 27 countries and the European Union, along with a number of private sector, non-profit, and multilateral partners.

We are grateful to the Government of Japan and Prime Minister Abe for their wonderful hospitality, for the vision and leadership manifest in the WAW!, and for their continued partnership as we work to empower women and girls around the world.