Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has outlined several new initiatives to empower women around the world, through technology training, public-private partnerships and grants, and a planned entrepreneurship summit specifically for women.
The morning after a major entrepreneurship conference wrapped in Washington, Clinton spoke at a breakfast for women from around the world who attended that summit.
Clinton, one of the world's most powerful women, told the story of a woman she once met at a craft market in Nepal. The secretary said the woman had not been allowed to leave her home after her marriage, until her husband was injured and could no longer earn a living. With the family in a dire situation, the woman had to ask her husband and mother-in-law for permission to sell the tapestries and crafts she could produce.
"As a result of her talent and her skill, she now employed two other weavers, and she now is sending her children to school, and they had added on to their home. And I said, 'So what do your husband and your mother-in-law think now?' She said, 'They think it's good.'"
Clinton said the United States is making women a focus of its foreign-policy agenda. The goal is to change attitudes about women, she said, and to address the challenges they face.
With that in mind, she outlined several new initiatives aimed at empowering women. One program provides mentoring and technology training to women in the Middle East and North Africa. There is a planned women's entrepreneurship summit in Japan. And there are public-private grants to invest in economic empowerment, combat violence against women and improve access to education and health care.
The major announcement was the launch of the "Secretary's Innovation Award for Women's and Girls' Empowerment." Up to $500,000 each will go to two applicants who can offer pioneering solutions to empower the world's women and girls - politically, economically and socially.
"We hope to receive entries that describe how specific innovations have improved the lives of women and girls, and proposals for how they can be scaled up and applied more broadly," Clinton added.
The awards are funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation said finding innovative ideas and expanding them to a large scale has proven to be hugely effective. She stressed that gender inequality needs to be tackled urgently.
"Women still do two-thirds of all the work in the world, but earn only about five percent of the income," said Rodin. "They harvest 90 percent of the world's food, yet they own only one percent of the world's land. And women are three times as likely as men to work in informal economies, and therefore abuse, sex trafficking and the absence of legal rights and protections for women are still unacceptably commonplace in so many places around the world."
Rodin said the first two awards will be given out this year. More information about the submission and selection process can be found on the State Department's Web site, on its Office of Global Women's Issues page.
The State Department says programs that include men and boys also are eligible for the awards program, because educating men can be an important part of empowering women and girls.