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Advice for Secretary Kerry on International Women's Day

As he marks his first International Women's Day as America's secretary of State, here are three areas where John Kerry can advance Hillary Rodham Clinton's work over the past four years on behalf of women and girls.

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Barriers such as access to credit, training, and international markets still limit many women’s ability to grow their businesses. Experts believe that reducing such barriers could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by the year 2020 in countries such as China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the Republic of Korea.

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Clinton worked to raise women's issues at all international economic forums – from APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) to the G20 to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). She launched regional networking and training programs for women entrepreneurs and formed many robust public-private partnerships to promote women’s economic empowerment. Kerry can build on all these efforts.

Personal diplomacy

Finally, Secretary Kerry can recognize that he himself can make a powerful impact of the status of women around the world through the force of his personal diplomacy. One of the first meetings he took as secretary of State was with a group of Burmese women leaders, and one of his very first tweets as secretary was of a picture of this meeting. The symbolism of this meeting to so many women – and men – around the world was powerful. I urge him to keep meeting.

Kerry should pointedly make time to meet with groups of women activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in his travels. He should also raise women’s issues with foreign ministers and other high-level officials who are not used to hearing about these topics from their international counterparts, especially from their male counterparts. By doing this, Kerry could send a powerful message around the world that advancing women and protecting their rights is not merely the concern of women alone – but of men and of all people who care about international peace and progress.

As a father of two daughters and husband to an activist wife, Kerry can galvanize governments and fathers, husbands, and brothers all around the world to join in the work of advancing women, in fighting gender-based violence, and ensuring the peaceful and prosperous world we all seek.

Global progress and prosperity will depend on nothing less.

Melanne Verveer was the United States’ first Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues from April 2009 until February 2013.


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