Obama Administration Prioritizes Ending Violence Against Women
Since President Obama took office in 2009, his Administration has been making huge strides to ensure that ending violence against women and girls is a top priority—a first in U.S. history! We’re going to thank them by delivering an oversized, hand-written card. Will you add your name?
Take a look back at some recent achievements:
The White House
IVAWA Policies. Obama Administration officials have conveyed their strong interest in implementing as much of IVAWA as possible. To that end, the President created several key positions and offices, and the White House has led inter-agency meetings to take stock of existing USG work on GBV and develop next steps based on core elements of the IVAWA legislation.
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks out publicly at high profile event at the State Department and again during a trip to Africa. In Africa, Mrs. Obama urged both female and male youth to advance women's rights and to stand up against violence against women, especially in the home – the first declaration of its kind by the Office of the First Lady.
Senior Position Created. Director of Office of Violence Against Women in the Office of the Vice President. The Vice President appointed Lynn Rosenthal to this new position, recognizing the pervasive nature of GBV domestically and internationally and prioritizing the coordination across all government agencies of policies to combat such violence. This was an underlying and central component of IVAWA advocacy.
National Security Strategy cites VAW. The White House released a National Security Strategy that outlines its priorities and foreign policy objectives. The strategy supports improving conditions for women, stating that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity” and “when those rights and opportunities are denied, countries often lag behind.” The strategy outlines a multisectoral approach to improve conditions for women and specifically cites the need to end violence against women especially in crisis and conflict zones.
Comprehensive GBV Strategy for U.S. Response to Crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The White House coordinated a comprehensive strategy to combat sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC. The approach recognizes that effective prevention of SGBV requires efforts to address the low status of women and girls in society and that increasing the participation of women in all aspects of society will enhance the value of women and girls and reduce violence.
Unveiling of National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP). The Coalition to End Violence against Women and Girls Globally advocated for a coordinated and comprehensive strategy on GBV in meetings at the White House, State Department, USAID, and DOD. The coalition continues to collaborate with the USG as it works to develop an implementation plan for the NAP. It has provided recommendations and collaborated with other civil society organizations to inform the process and highlight GBV.
Fiscal Year 2013 Congressional Budget Justification. For the first time, the Administration’s Congressional Budget Justification for FY13 included specific programming on gender and gender-based violence, including information about how funding for such purposes will be allocated across international assistance accounts and for which countries.
Department of State
New Gender Guidance. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued the first-ever Secretarial Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality. This Guidance seeks to ensure that a focus on women and girls is integrated across the State Department’s work, including through planning and budget development; programming, monitoring and evaluation; and management and training of key personnel.
New Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues. Creation of this position was a core element of IVAWA advocacy. President Obama named Melanne Verveer as the first Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. The Ambassador, in collaboration with a new Senior Coordinator at USAID, ensures gender policy is integrated, coordinated and initiated as a priority for policy and programs. The Ambassador-at-Large is also specifically tasked with preventing and addressing violence against women internationally.
New Office of Global Women's Issues. IVAWA called for the creation of this office which President Obama established. This office fosters greater attention within the USG about the treatment of women and ending violence against women and girls; it prioritizes the issue in U.S. diplomacy, including in the development and implementation of policy and programming.
US Support for UN Women. Members of the IVAWA coalition and the global women’s movement worked in collaboration with allies in the US government and other UN Member States to support the UN restructuring and define the focus and scope of UN Women. President Michelle Bachelet, the new executive director, highlighted violence against women and girls as one of five core focus areas for the new UN agency.
National Action Plan for UNSC Resolution 1325. Recognizing the prevalence of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict settings and the important role women play in peacemaking, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed the USG to developing a National Action Plan to implement UNSCR 1325. This coordinated and comprehensive strategy aligns with the core principals of IVAWA. As noted above in the White House section, the coalition has actively participated in the process to develop the plan and is supporting its implementation. Clinton made the announcement at the United Nations General Assembly for the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325. The NAP was released in December 2011.
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
New Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy. USAID's new Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy mandates that gender equality and women’s empowerment be integrated throughout all facets of the agency’s work. The reduction of gender-based violence and its impacts on individuals and communities is one of three outcome goals of the new policy. USAID will be seeking to achieve this goal through its contribution to an interagency, multi-year strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in countries where it is common, something that that the IVAWA has called for since its inception.
New Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. IVAWA called for creation of this new position which, in collaboration with the Ambassador-at-Large at the State Department, will oversee and coordinate gender policy and programming. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah named Carla Koppell to the newly created position. The creation of this position, which is located in the office of the Administrator, elevates gender and women’s empowerment throughout the agency, and paves the way for more integrated programming.
Office of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. The Administration renamed USAID's Office of Women in Development (WID), thus creating the Office of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. This restructuring, promises to elevate, expand and give greater authority to the office leading USAID efforts to empower women and achieve gender equality through international development policies and programs.
New Professional Development and Evaluation. USAID is now considering inclusive development as a selection criterion in the hiring of new mission directors, which includes attention to women and girls. They also are expanding training curriculum to include gender and GBV. We are following up.
New Tracking Resource Allocations. USAID has put in place new accounting measures to identify budget attributions for all gender programming and help track the funding invested for gender and GBV programming. A core element of IVAWA is to promote accountability for resources.
Department of Defense (DOD)
First DOD National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325. For the first time, DOD is working in close collaboration with the White House, State and USAID to implement a coordinated and comprehensive response to GBV in conflict, post conflict, crisis and other settings where the agency plays a role. The coalition is working with allies within DOD to identify core areas that DOD should address gender-based violence through the NAP process.
Congressional Hearings were in the House of Representatives and US Senate to examine the widespread nature of violence against women and deliberate adequate solutions to the cross-cutting issue: October 1, 2009, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Violence Against Women: Global Costs and Consequences;”October 23, 2009, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, “International Violence Against Women: Stories and Solutions;” and, April 15, 2010, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, “Violence Against Women: Strategies and Responses.”
IVAWA voted favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). Intensive education and awareness efforts fostered high levels of bipartisan support in both chambers. Building on this momentum, the SFRC convened a mark up and voted in favor of IVAWA without any amendments, moving IVAWA further along the legislative process than ever before.
The Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations bill strengthened and expanded previous language on gender-based violence. Funding to address violence against women and girls can now come from more accounts than ever before. Additionally, the multisectoral strategy at the heart of I-VAWA was a part of the report language. Both USAID and the Department of State are already taking steps to participate in the development and implementation of this strategy.
To make sure the Obama Administration keeps up the good work, we'd like to send a heart-felt thank you to key officials. Add your name and message to our hand-written thank you card and we'll deliver it on May 1, 2012.