The State Department is on alert: women’s furtherance world-wide is a central priority of America’s foreign policy. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has told all U.S. diplomats that she and President Clinton are committed to improving the status of women throughout the world. At an International Women’s Day ceremony, Albright outlined the policy and said, “Advancing the status of women is not only a moral imperative, it is being actively integrated into the foreign policy of the United States. It is our mission. It is the right thing to do, and frankly it is the smart thing to do.” Albright travels today to North Carolina to urge Senator Jesse Helms, who as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has bottled up the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to ratify the 1979 Convention.
To show this commitment has action behind the words, the State Department has contributed funds to a volunteer group in Pakistan that runs a school for Afghan refugee girls, and in Namibia, the U.S. Embassy has used its discretionary funds to combat sexual violence against women. Next month, two dozen Russian judges and law enforcement officers travel to Washington, D.C. where the State and Justice Departments will meet with them to attempt to stop clandestine trafficking in Russian women. The women are told by organized crime figures that they will appear in folk music troupes and are then sold into prostitution rings.
Last year President Clinton decided to invest $5 million government dollars in a fund to provide loans and training for Bosnian women. First Lady Hillary Clinton joined Albright for the International Women’s Day Celebration and commented, “What this administration believes, is that if half the world’s citizens are undervalued, underpaid, undereducated, underrepresented, fed less, fed worse, not heard, put down, we cannot sustain the democratic values and way of life we have come to cherish.”