Council on Women and Girls Blog

  • Peace Corps Volunteers Work to Increase Opportunities for Women Around the World

    During Women’s History Month and throughout the year, thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers are working in communities around the world to increase opportunities for women and girls.

    Peace Corps Volunteers know that women and girls in developing countries play a critical role in the well-being of their families and communities.  That’s why a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines worked with women in her community on a small business venture to sell colorful handbags crocheted from discarded plastic bags, and why Volunteers in Moldova are working with a local domestic violence shelter to improve the shelter’s direct services and provide training on domestic violence interventions and prevention strategies.

    Peace Corps is unique in that Volunteers work at the grassroots level to identify gender barriers in individual communities. In Kenya, Volunteers have been working to end the practice of trading sex for fish, which has perpetuated the spread of HIV/AIDS among communities along Lake Victoria and forces women to become financially dependent on men. Since 2011, three Volunteers have helped local women find financial independence by working with Kenyan businesses and U.S. federal government partners to acquire boats for women involved in the fish trade and support the development of their own fishing business.

    One of the agency’s most successful and widespread gender-based initiatives is Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). Camp GLOW was first established in 1995 by a group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Romania to promote gender equality and empower young women by creating a safe and supportive environment for cultural exchange, individuality, creativity, leadership development and fun. Since that time, Volunteers in 60 countries have established GLOW camps to promote the empowerment of women. In recent years, Volunteers have started to incorporate men and boys in GLOW camps to bring attention to the role that males play in gender equality. For example, Volunteers in Senegal invite fathers to attend Camp GLOW with their daughters so the males can see their daughters as individuals with dreams, goals and ambitions.

    We have worked hard to integrate gender equity programming across sectors in the countries where Peace Corps Volunteers live and work. More than a thousand Volunteers in our education sector received training that gives them the skills to work with in-country counterpart teachers to introduce more gender equitable practices into the classroom routine and create safe spaces for all children to learn.  In addition, over one hundred host country national staff in Africa and Asia received training on gender equitable teaching practices and addressing gender based violence at the community level.  In addition, every Peace Corps trainee at every post worldwide receives one hour of gender training as part of pre-service training.

    Peace Corps Volunteers are making a difference in the lives of women and girls while supporting gender equality in communities around the world.

    From our Peace Corps family to yours, happy Women’s History Month!

    Click here for a fuller list of accomplishments by Peace Corps.

    Carrie Hessler-Radelet is the Acting Director of Peace Corps.

  • EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

    One of the world’s most celebrated pilots, Amelia Earhart, once explained that the reason she chose to explore the skies was to produce practical results “for the women who may want to fly tomorrow’s planes.” Of course, during Earhart’s lifetime, it was almost as rare to find a woman at the helm of an American business as it was to find a woman in the cockpit of an airplane. But thanks to the hard work and enterprising spirit of generations of female pioneers, today women aren’t merely flying planes—they’re building, buying, and selling them, too.

    As the son of a proud American businesswoman, I’ve had a front row seat to that progress. My mother, Lillian Vernon, was a German immigrant who started her retail business from our kitchen table; growing up, I learned firsthand what it was like for female business owners to struggle and, ultimately, succeed. That experience is something I keep in mind every time I meet with women entrepreneurs here in America and around the world, and discuss ways to empower them in the global market and help their businesses grow.

    At the Export-Import Bank, we’re supporting American businesswomen as they continue to conquer new frontiers. Last year, we helped a record number of women-owned businesses reach new customers around the world and create new jobs here at home. Since 2010, our authorizations for women-owned businesses have jumped 33% to reach historic highs. And 2013 saw the highest percentage in our 80-year history of authorizations going towards businesses primarily owned by women.

    One of those businesses belongs to Jenny Fulton, the co-founder of Miss Jenny’s Pickles in Kernersville, NC. Like so many small business owners, Jenny knew she had a great product—but credit obstacles kept her business from reaching its global potential. After teaming up with the Export-Import Bank, however, Jenny gained the financial security she needed to ship her pickles to customers around the world. Today, pickle lovers from Canada to China are enjoying her product—and 10 more employees are drawing a paycheck in North Carolina.

    Jenny’s story is what the Export-Import Bank is all about—and Jenny isn’t alone.  We’re supporting hundreds of women-owned businesses each year as they seek to reach new customers. Because of the partnerships we’ve forged, Susan Axelrod has taken her desserts from Long Island to Saudi Arabia. Lisa Howlett’s leather company has gone from serving customers in western Kentucky to serving customers in Hong Kong. Nancy Mercolino now sends her aluminum and wood ceilings from California to Qatar. And the international success enjoyed by all of these women has translated into new jobs for American workers.

    We know that women will be one of the most important engines of economic growth here in the U.S. and across the globe in the years to come. In fact, they already are. If America’s women-owned businesses were to form their own country today, that country would have the world’s fifth-largest GDP. And by 2018, more than half of American small business jobs being created will be from women-owned firms.

    As we celebrate Women’s History Month and look back on the remarkable accomplishments of our female innovators, entrepreneurs, advocates, and pioneers, we also celebrate the bright future ahead. And here at the Export-Import Bank, we’ll continue to break down financing barriers and support women as they expand their customer bases, create American jobs, and propel their businesses to new heights.

    Click here for a fuller list of accomplishments by Export-Import Bank.

    Fred Hochberg is the Chairman and President of Export-Import Bank. 

  • Advancing Women's Potential Around the World

    Ed. note: On March 11, 2009, President Obama established the inter-agency White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure the programs and policies of the federal government are being crafted and implemented with the wellbeing of our women and girls at the forefront of our thinking and priorities. This post is part of a month-long series highlighting government-wide progress toward that goal. Read more posts here.

    Last spring, I visited Burma for the first time and met Dr. Aye Aye Mu. She is dedicating her life to serving vulnerable women and children by working closely with individual doctors to improve the equality and accessibility of their life-saving care.

    In a country where 35 percent of all children suffer from stunting, Dr. Aye Aye’s work has saved countless lives. Last year alone, she conducted over 5,000 reproductive health consultations and treated more than 250 cases of tuberculosis. An innovative and dedicated physician, Dr. Aye Aye Mu embodies our Agency’s commitment to ensuring that everyone everywhere enjoys the opportunity to live to her full potential.

    From Burma to Afghanistan to Senegal, I have seen the profound impact that our investments in women and girls can have—from empowering women during political transitions to helping end the outrage of child death. If we are going to truly achieve the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, we cannot leave behind half of the global population. We have to invest in women and girls as champions of development who can lift their families out of extreme poverty.

    Across our projects in more than 80 countries, we are doing just that—by making evidence-based investments in gender equality and female empowerment.

  • VA and Women Veterans: “Fielding a Full Team”

    Ed. note: On March 11, 2009, President Obama established the inter-agency White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure the programs and policies of the federal government are being crafted and implemented with the wellbeing of our women and girls at the forefront of our thinking and priorities. This post is part of a month-long series highlighting government-wide progress toward that goal. Read more posts here.

    In his State of the Union Address, President Obama declared, “We are stronger when America fields a full team.” As we move to leverage the power of a fully represented “Team America,” VA is advancing the cause of our 2.2 million women veterans. 

    Women veterans are one of the fastest-growing populations of veterans. Now 10%, by 2020, they will constitute over 12% of all veterans.

    America depends on the traits veterans embody -- dependability, resourcefulness, diligence, a team focus, and a can-do attitude – to make good on the President’s efforts to re-energize our economy.  After serving our country in uniform, women veterans go on to serve our communities and our workplaces as a positive force for America’s strong and growing middle class.

  • Celebrating Women’s History Month with the White House Council on Women and Girls

    On March 11, 2009, not long after taking office, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the inter-agency White House Council on Women and Girls (CWG), and beginning to shape his Administration’s unwavering commitment to equality and opportunity for all.  This body is made up of leaders from all the major federal agencies, and built to ensure the programs and policies of the federal government are being crafted and implemented with the wellbeing of our women and girls at the forefront of our thinking and priorities. 

    Five years later, CWG continues its steadfast commitment to ensuring the rights, security, and dignity of women in America and around the world.

    In honor of Women’s History Month, I am thrilled to kick off the CWG’s March blog series, which will highlight the wonderful progress we have made, while underscoring the work that lies ahead.  Each day this month, an Administration official will post a blog to highlight how their office is working to support CWG’s charge, and women everywhere.

  • Moms Champions

    Ed. Note: This blog is cross-posted from The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

    Do you remember?  For many of us, mom was the first—and best—health care provider we ever had.  Cleaning off a scraped knee or filling a prescription for chicken soup, mom played a vital role in our early health. Her love and attention showed us that health care was better when it was delivered with compassion. 

    Mom was always there for us and it’s something we never forget. 

    As children get older, a mother’s role changes.  No longer magically wielding thermometers or gently pulling off Band-Aids with the utmost care, a mom becomes a vital source for advice. Kids – young and old – trust mom to tell it like it is.

    As the mom of two grown boys, I know the immeasurable value of a mother’s voice. I know the feeling of wanting to help kids stay safe and healthy.

    That’s why helping moms learn about health care options for their kids is one of my top priorities.

    I want to make sure moms across the country understand the new opportunities for their families as we approach the beginning of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

    Starting tomorrow, and continuing through March 2014, Americans that lack access to affordable coverage will be able to apply, compare plans, and enroll in the Marketplace, with  coverage beginning as early as January 1, 2014.

    These plans will cover essential services like maternity care, hospitalizations, doctor’s visits, and prescription drugs.  These plans also cap out-of-pocket costs, can’t place an annual limit on coverage, and can’t charge you more because you’re a woman or have a pre-existing condition.

    And for nearly 6 in 10 of the uninsured Americans, coverage will be available for $100 or less per month.

    The good news is that we’re not alone in trying to get the word out. Programs like text4baby, and organizations like MomsRising, and the What to Expect Foundation are committed to joining us as we begin to educate moms about the Marketplace.  We’re calling these organizations “Champions for Coverage.”

    Champions for Coverage are local businesses, organizations, bloggers, community health centers, hospitals, and faith communities. They will use publicly available materials – both digital and in print – to help members of their communities understand their new options through the Marketplace.

    I want to send my sincerest thanks to organizations like these. We always knew we couldn’t do this important work alone.

    For millions of Americans, better health care options are on the way – as long as they know to sign up.

    In Case You Missed It: View a full recap of the HealthCare.gov, Moms Rising, and text4baby #GetCovered Twitter chat .

    To see the list of Champions for Coverage visit: http://marketplace.cms.gov/help-us/champion.html.

    Learn more about the Marketplace and how to get ready to enroll at HealthCare.gov or call the Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).

    Kathleen Sebelius is the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.