President Obama appointed Melanne Verveer as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues:
Melanne Verveer is Co-Founder, Chair and Co-CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international nonprofit that invests in emerging women leaders â€“ pioneers of economic, political and social progress in their countries. Prior to founding Vital Voices, Verveer served as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady in the Clinton Administration and was chief assistant to then First Lady Hillary Clinton in her international activities. Verveer also took the lead in establishing the President’s Interagency Council on Women, which serves as a model for governments to address issues of concern to women.
Previously, Verveer served as Executive Vice President of People for the American Way, a civil rights and constitutional liberties organization where she played a key role in the passage of several landmark civil rights bills. She was Coordinator for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for the U.S. Catholic Conference, Field Manager of Common Cause and worked in the U.S. House and Senate as Legislative Director and Special Assistant respectively. Verveer is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Women’s Foreign Policy Group, the Washington Institute on Foreign Affairs and Women In International Security.
The President’s decision to nominate an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues is unprecedented and reflects the elevated importance of global women’s issues to the President and his entire Administration.
I applaud President Obama’s recognition of the “elevated importance of global women’s issues.” I hope that Ambassador Verveer has a broad portfolio and that in her new role, she can be a voice for democracy and women’s rights all over the world.
That being said . . . I can’t help but think that it’s intellectually and emotionally easier for many of us to decry sexism and injustice in other countries than to address profound issues that confront women in our own country. Women are more likely than men to be living in poverty. Over 25% of African-American women are living in poverty. Latina poverty is close to that. Daycare is expensive. Health care is expensive. One Department of Justice study (here) reports that 25% of all women have experienced sexual assault or other physical assault during their lifetimes. More than a million women are stalked each year (report here). And the United States thinks of itself as a leader in the treatment of women? The laws of this country have done much to improve women’s access to education and employment, but still there are so many women cannot feed themselves and their families.
Domestically, we now have a White House Council on Women and Girls. Its purpose? “[T]o ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy,” President Obama said (here). We hope. We wait.