Experts and advocates sound off on what they’re doing to advance women’s rights around the globe.

Melanne Verveer
US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues

A 2009 World Economic Forum report shows women and men are not equal in any country around the globe, but the gender gap is clearly narrower in some nations. While there isn’t an easy answer to ending persistent, entrenched inequality, I believe that improving children’s access to education—promoting equality lessons for both girls and boys—is a very good place to start.

Educating girls is the most effective international development investment that we can make. We need to continue to work to ensure boys and girls can go to school, stay in school and learn about the intrinsic human worth of all people.

Shamim Jawad
Founder and President of the Ayenda Foundation and wife of he Afghan Ambassador to the United States

According to a recent survey of Afghan people conducted by the Asia Foundation, 49 percent of Afghans listed lack of education and illiteracy as the most serious problem facing women, followed by lack of job opportunities (28 percent), lack of women’s rights (21 percent) and domestic violence (11 percent).

The Afghan government, along with national and international non-governmental organizations, is lending its support to my country’s women by providing microfinance programs and teaching entrepreneurship skills and literacy classes. Many organizations are also teaching life skills such as sewing to entice more women to enroll.

By doing this we’re not only creating job opportunities and generating income for women, but also improving the living conditions and providing opportunities to the entire family and their village. In the province of Bamiyan, where the Ayenda Foundation has built a school for 300 children, women were taught to grow tomatoes and strawberries for the first time in the 3,000-year history of this beautiful valley. Today these women receive regular income for their work and can afford to send their children to school; they are recognizing the benefits of having skills and education and, most importantly, they no longer require their children to help work for their families’ basic necessities. That’s progress.

Qubad Talabani
Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the United States

The gender inequality facing women today in Iraq’s Kurdistan region is similar to those facing women all over the developing world. Limitations, whether social or legal, include the ability to participate in the economy, play key roles in government and in rural areas, have access to education.

In recent years, women have achieved prominent roles in society and government in my homeland. Kurdistan was one of the first governments in the region to appoint female judges, and women have held the positions of cabinet minister in the KRG. Today more than 30 percent of the Parliament is female, a higher percentage than anywhere in the region, North America and most of Europe.

Yet regrettably in Kurdistan, like elsewhere in Iraq, women are sometimes subjected to violence. As a result the KRG has established several initiatives to monitor and prevent violence against women, including specialized police directorates and shelters.

As the Kurdistan region continues on its path to democratization, we understand that more needs to be done to strengthen the rights of and [increase] opportunities for women and girls while ensuring they have full economic and legal rights, access to education and protection against violence. We’re looking forward to embracing more initiatives and celebrating more advances.

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