U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, says African women should come together to form “cross-sectoral networks that bespeak more power than struggling by yourself.” When women from NGOs network with small or big business owners, they would be able to identify obstacles. This would help in “developing a strategy to work together to bring about change.”
Ambassador Verveer directed this piece of advice by way of encouragement specifically to Woman Afrique, on November 17, 2009, in response to a question during a meeting with the IFC Women’s Network in Washington, Dc.
Verveer, confirmed in April 2009 in the first ever cabinet position created specifically to incorporate gender rights issues into U.S. foreign policy, said that part of her job is to integrate women’s possibilities into the overall work of the State Department and in so doing, “create opportunities for non-governmental actors and individuals to contribute to the solution.”
One of the major global initiatives of the Obama administration that Ambassador Verveer outlined is in the area of Food Security, where traditionally, agricultural programs have rarely taken into consideration the needs of women, who make up the majority of small-scale farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Verveer said addressing those needs, such as land tenure rights, training programs, credit and women’s overall participation in the decision-making process, is critical to greater agricultural productivity.
The Obama Administration’s elevation of women’s issues to cabinet level also raises hopes in international human rights circles that the U.S. may finally get around to ratifying the CEDAW Treaty. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, universally considered to be the ultimate women’s “Bill of Rights” has been ratified by all western nations except the U.S. Verveer said, when queried about this, that although it is high on the administration’s agenda, it is still up to the U.S. Senate to make it happen.
The Ambassador applauded the group of highly-skilled IFC female employees, representing every region in the world, for understanding the challenges that face women around the world more than most people do, and “addressing them with innovative solutions.”