Globally speaking, women bear the brunt of modern conflicts, have limited say in the decisions that affect them, and lag far behind men in access to land, credit and decent jobs.* Peace is only possible once women have been accorded full participation across all fields of human endeavor. Until such gender equality becomes reality, a climate in which international peace will emerge cannot be fully realized.
The advancement of women has many dimensions, but includes prioritizing the education of girls and ensuring that women’s contributions to peace and international development are recognized and supported. Men and boys also play a very important, but often overlooked, role in establishing gender equality.
The U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs (OPA) was actively engaged in follow up activities to the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing, China in 1995. A document called the “Platform for Action” was drawn up at this international meeting and, while not legally binding on states, it reaffirmed ways to advance women’s human rights. The then-director of OPA was engaged in many outreach activities to promote the Platform — including participation in the President’s Interagency Council on Women (hosted by the U.S. Department of State) and serving on the U.S. delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s “Beijing Plus Five” preparatory meeting.
OPA has consistently promoted the full participation of women in international development assistance programs. It has worked, for example, with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government entity that provides funding to developing countries based on their ability to rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom. In working with the MCC, a past OPA representative has served as a member of the Women and the MCC Working Group, which was actively involved with research and data on the legal status of women and women’s organizations in more than 15 countries.
OPA representatives in Washington, D.C. have been involved with the Women, Faith and Development Alliance (WFDA), which was formally launched in April 2008. The WFDA brought international religious women’s networks together with international development organizations to advocate for women’s empowerment as a key priority for investment in development. The faith subcommittee of the WFDA has focused on encouraging the U.S. Congress to place gender concerns at the forefront of foreign assistance reform. OPA has also worked closely with an organization called Women Thrive Worldwide, which “advocates for change at the U.S. and global levels, so that women and men have an equal voice, and share equally opportunities, economic prosperity, and freedom from fear and violence.”
Finally, OPA is engaged in discourse about the positive role that men and boys can play in championing the advancement of women. This work includes placing articles in publications like the Huffington Post and organizing consultations in Washington, D.C. on ‘Advancing Toward the Equality of Women and Men,’ a paper prepared by the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity.