“The Status of Women: A Reflection of Democracy” – Address by Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the United States Department of State’s Event

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has recently attended the virtual event titled “The Status of Women is the Status of Democracy,” hosted by the United States Department of State. The event aimed to discuss the critical role of women in strengthening democratic government systems around the world. As a prominent advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment, Secretary Blinken’s presence at the summit highlights the United States’ commitment to advancing women’s rights, as well as its dedication to promoting democracy and inclusive governance globally. This article will delve into the key highlights of Secretary Blinken’s participation and insights during the event, emphasizing his role as a champion of gender equality and democratic values.

The Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, opened the second Summit for Democracy at the State Department by acknowledging the critical role women play in democratic societies. He praised the leadership of Jen Klein of the White House Gender Policy Council and Katrina McFarland of the State Department on Global Women’s Issues. Blinken thanked the government officials, civil society organizations, and multilateral partners for advancing women’s equality and hence democracy. He declared that women’s rights and democracy are inherently interconnected, as active participation from all citizens, particularly women and girls, strengthens democracies. Since the beginning of the administration, President Biden has made the advancement of women’s civic and political engagement a top priority.

Blinken highlighted the various challenges women and girls face globally, including targeted laws that restrict women’s fundamental freedoms and extremism that disproportionately affects marginalized identities such as LGBTQI+, women from racial, ethnic, and religious communities. Many women and girls globally still do not have equal opportunities to study and work. Women journalists, advocates, politicians, and others face online harassment and abuse. Violence against women often goes unpunished, and discrimination puts them and their families at a disadvantage.

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Despite these challenges, women and girls worldwide are standing up for their rights and those of others. They are demonstrating the importance of having women at the decision-making table. Blinken singled out the courage of Afghan women, who continue to protest and investigate human rights violations under the Taliban’s oppressive rule. He also recognized Iranian women who march in the streets despite threats to their safety, demanding “woman, life, and freedom.”

The United States, through its diplomatic efforts, stands in solidarity with these women and is committed to advancing gender equality worldwide. Blinken referred to the “Support Her Empowerment – Women’s Inclusion in New Security,” or “SHE WINS” initiative launched at the last Summit for Democracy, which supports women-led civil society organizations in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. The US is leading the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse in partnership with Denmark.

Blinken introduced Poomzeelay Van Damme, a former South African parliamentarian who experienced online harassment, as a leader who is working to combat gender-based online abuse. The Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, comprising 12 nations, has made significant progress in the past year, with some member countries providing more resources to combat the problem at home, including training for those in the legal and justice system and for advocates working with online harassment survivors. Some countries are also beginning to collect data to better calculate the impacts of online abuse, and as a whole, the partnership has worked to build a consensus on shared principles to counter online harassment at venues from the G7 to the United Nations.

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Blinken called on participants to recommit to the work of advancing gender equality, recognizing the smart and necessary thing it is to make societies more prosperous, more secure, and more full of opportunities for all. He praised the group assembled at the State Department, saying they have everything they need to achieve this goal. In closing, he thanked each participant, in person and virtually, for working to advance the gender equality agenda and helping to open the Summit for Democracy.

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