Written by Astrid Pregel Tuesday, April 17 2012
Astrid Pregel is a passionate advocate for the economic empowerment of women. She has spent most of the past 15 years studying, advocating, writing policy and advising international organizations and governments on women's economic issues. A career Foreign Service officer, Pregel is the president of Feminomics, Inc., a boutique consulting firm specialized in women's economic empowerment, leadership and entrepreneurship.
She recently served as special advisor on Women and the Economy for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Additionally, she completed an 18-month assignment at the Canadian International Development Agency as a special advisor on Women's Economic Empowerment. She has completed assignments for the World Bank, the United Nations, foundations and nonprofits and regularly advises on women and international trade and access to market issues.
Pregel shares this insightful look at the role Hillary Clinton has played in the recent, revolutionary shift in U.S. Foreign Policy.
It seemed like a cross between Wall Street, the White House, Silicone Valley and Hollywood. The American delegation of women leaders attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women’s Economic Summit in San Francisco in September 2011, hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was dazzling! The top women leaders in business, government and the nonprofit sectors from across America and around the Pacific Ocean gathered to hear Clinton, to network with top women leaders from around the region and to work together to promote awareness that women are critically important to robust, sustainable global economic growth.
Secretary Clinton was adamant when she stated, “If we address the barriers to women’s economic participation, we can fundamentally transform our economies."
Her audience could not have agreed more and rose countless times to applaud her remarks.
However, I truly knew there was something unusual unfolding when the U.S. State Department released two versions of Clinton’s ground breaking address. The speech gave a lot of facts and figures that proved unequivocally that women are key drivers of economic growth across the APEC region. Being a data junkie, I not only loved the speech because it was rich in economic facts, but I was delighted that the second version of the speech had a bulleted list of the secretary’s remarks and provided the source of information for each and every groundbreaking fact she mentioned. No more separate fact sheets! No more scouring the Internet to try to track down the source of data quoted by a politician. Here were all the facts and figures directly linked to a speech made by America’s foreign minister (in Canadian terminology) -- right there, front and center on the U.S. government’s website.
What I did not realize then, but has become richly clear since, is that Secretary Clinton was laying down markers for a framework that would form the basis for nothing less than a revolutionary forward movement in U.S. foreign policy – in fact, forward movement that sets a new benchmark for the entire world.
Recently Secretary Clinton sent out a 10-page instruction document to all foreign missions and all bureaus in the U.S. State Department titled, “The Secretary’s Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality to Achieve our Foreign Policy Objectives.”
In the introduction, Secretary Clinton quotes from her January 13, 2009 testimony before Congress.
“If half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope for advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women’s rights in every country on every continent.”
She continues in her policy instructions, “The Department must ensure that our diplomacy and development efforts promote gender equality and advance the status of women and girls. Doing so is essential to our national security. “
Secretary Clinton refers to the U.S. National Security Strategy, which recognizes that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity.” It continues, “To achieve successful outcomes for U.S. foreign policy priorities, including stability, prosperity and peace, we must focus on promoting gender equality and advancing the political, economic, social and cultural status of women and girls.”
The policy outlines how American embassies around the world are to promote women’s role in political, civic and economic participation; and peace and security. It underscores that gender equality must be proactively promoted in all American bilateral, regional, multilateral and public diplomacy. Finally, diplomacy is heading in a direction we can all understand, applaud and support!
Secretary Clinton has given policy guidance and a number of other important speeches, which have helped frame this radical new way of thinking about foreign policy. Her address on women in public service outlines the importance of increasing women’s leadership in public service around the world.
Two speeches on women, peace and security underscore a direct and indisputable relationship; without the equal treatment of women, long-term security and peace are unobtainable. Further, women have a critically important role to play in negotiating, securing and maintaining peace.
The recent release by USAID of its new “Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy,” again places the United States at the leading edge of global understanding about the central role women must play in poverty eradication, economic growth and international development.
It is not only in the United States that Secretary Clinton is driving radical change. She is influencing many major actors to advance the understanding of the potential of women to change the world. Her leadership has resulted in a flurry of international activity at multilateral institutions, in a myriad of bilateral U.S. political relationships, at the United Nations and in thousands of nonprofits and private sector firms. And here in Canada we all refer to her simply as Hillary. Those of us around the globe who have watched this amazing movement in U.S. foreign policy wonder how we can adapt this major shift to strategically advance the work in our own countries.
In the past few weeks an important possible event has been announced, which could serve as an international focal point for all women interested in women, peace, security and prosperity. The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon recently launched the idea of a Fifth World Conference on Women for 2015. This would be 20 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing where Secretary Clinton, as First Lady of the United States, made her first major impact for women on the world stage. What a fitting 20th anniversary celebration it would be. We have come a long way indeed. Thank you, Hillary.
More stories about spurring the advancement of women:
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Founder of Women Without Border Edit Schlaffer has seen firsthand how effective women are as peacekeepers. Read about how two Nigerian mothers found common ground.
A dedicated human rights advocate, Naomi Tutu -- ambassador for Join My Village and the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- gives her personal testimony about the strength of women.