Mr. CARDIN: I rise today to speak about International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is an occasion to honor and praise women for their accomplishments and to celebrate women who are making a difference, both here in America and around the world. Already this year, we have seen advances for women in the United States. In January, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that women in the military can now join their male colleagues on the front line. America’s military is the greatest in the world and it has been made stronger with the promise of equal opportunity for women and men. Last month, we reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which provides victims of domestic violence with the services they desperately need.
We need to ensure that women across the world, not just in the United States, have the same liberty to determine the scope of their own lives and futures. Unfortunately, in far too many nations, women face extraordinary obstacles. A woman’s ability to earn a sustained income is severely limited by cultural norms and lack of opportunity, which explains why women represent nearly 70 percent of the world’s poor. And if extreme poverty and destitution weren’t enough, women around the world are under attack. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of violence in her lifetime. Women and girls in emergencies, conflict settings, and natural disasters often face extreme violence. The World Health Organization has reported that up to 70 percent of women in some countries describe having been victims of domestic violence at some stage in their lives.
When we discuss the issues of poverty and violence against women, we cannot think of them in isolation. They work in tandem, feeding off of one another. Violence against women and girls is both a major consequence and cause of poverty; the two go hand-in-hand. Violence prevents women and girls from getting an education, going to work, and earning the income they need to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
I believe in the power of women to change the world, and empowering women is one of the most critical tools in our tool box to fight poverty and injustice. Integrating the unique needs of women into our domestic and international policies is critical. Decades of research and experience prove that when women are able to be fully engaged in society and hold decision-making power, they are more likely to invest their income in food, clean water, education, and health care for their children. Investment in women creates a positive cycle of change that lifts women, families, and entire communities out of poverty.
In January, President Obama issued a Memorandum on the coordination of policies and programs to promote gender equality and empower women globally. This memo recognizes that coordinating gender equality and empowering women is critical to effective international assistance across all sectors like food security, health care, governance, climate change, and science and technology.
Our nation has the potential to be a true leader in empowering women across the globe, ending gender-based discrimination in all forms, and ending violence against women and girls worldwide. And on this International Women’s Day, let us join together to continue to fight for the rights of women both at home and abroad.