President Barack Obama addressed global women’s rights in a speech he gave this morning in Cairo, Egypt. The speech (see PDF), entitled A New Beginning, focused on the tensions between the United States and Muslims in relation to a number of areas including violent extremism, the Israeli-Palistinian conflict, nuclear weapons, democracy, religious freedom, and economic development.
The following statement on women’s rights is excerpted from Obama’s remarks:
“I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.”