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Women's Equality Day

August 26, 2011 by Charity Wallace

“Half a democracy is not a democracy,” Kuwaiti pioneer Rola Dashti once said in summing up why she was pressing for women’s suffrage in her country.  In 2005, Kuwaiti women finally won the right to vote and four years later saw four of their own – including Ms. Dashti – become the first women elected to their parliament. Today, on Women’s Equality Day, we remember all the women who have fought for their rights to be recognized, how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go. Less than a century ago – in 1919 – the women’s suffrage movement in the United States finally succeeded at giving women the franchise.  Thanks to the efforts of women like Susan B. Anthony and many others, women have made great progress over the past several decades.  Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court Justice in 1981; Condoleezza Rice, who grew up in a segregated Alabama to become the first female African-American U.S. Secretary of State in 2005; and Nancy Brinker, who, at a time when the word “breast” could not be published in a newspaper, launched a worldwide movement to overcome breast cancer by founding Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982.  These women pioneered the way. But there is still a long way to go. Today, we also acknowledge the desire and hope of women and girls around the world that are fighting for equality so they can realize their full potential. Women’s rights are human rights.  Too many women around the world do not even have basic opportunities, such as to obtain an education, gain access to health services, and or find gainful employment.  The statistics are stark reminders of the obstacles women face: •Women earn just 10 percent of the world’s income, despite making up half of the world’s population. •More than two-thirds of the nearly 800 million illiterate adults in the world are women. •Lack of access to health services results in more than 350,000 maternal deaths per year worldwide. A century of progress has shown us that when you educate and empower women, you improve nearly every other aspect of society.  As the great Egyptian poet Hafez Ibrahim said at the dawn of the 20th century, "When you educate a woman, you create a nation." Studies show that when women are educated, their children are more likely to be educated, healthier and their family more prosperous.  Girls who have the opportunity to attend school tend to delay marriage and choose to have children at an older age, when their bodies are more developed and able to survive childbirth.  And the likelihood that her child will see his or her first birthday increases up to 10 times when the mother survives. Research also shows that when women are included in the economy, countries are more stable and prosperous.  Investing in women has proven to be the best return on investment - with far reaching implications.  When we invest in women, we invest in future generations, promote stability in communities and stimulate prosperity in countries. Today, as we remember the brave pioneers who struggled to give women opportunity in the U.S., we must follow in their footsteps and forge the way for women and girls around the world who, given the opportunity, will transform their countries.

 

Author

Charity Wallace
Charity Wallace

Charity N. Wallace serves as the Senior Advisor to the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute and is in an executive graduate program in pursuit of a Global Master of Arts degree in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Most recently, Ms. Wallace served as the Vice President of the Global Women’s Initiatives and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush. In this role, Ms. Wallace was responsible for setting the vision and managing the policy engagement for the women’s initiatives, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon global health initiative, empowering women in the Middle East and working with First Ladies from around the world. The Women's Initiative aims to improve access to education, health care, and economic opportunity for women and children in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

From February 2009 through September 2010, Wallace served as the Chief of Staff to Mrs. Laura Bush.  Wallace oversaw Mrs. Bush’s initiatives - from her wide ranging policy agenda to her the publishing and promotion of Mrs. Bush’s bestselling book, Spoken from the Heart. Wallace served in the Bush Administration from January 2001 to January 2009.  During her tenure in the administration, she served as Deputy Chief of Protocol of the United States (2007-2009), Director of Advance for First Lady Laura Bush (2004-2007), and worked in public liaison positions in Presidential Advance, the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and USA Freedom Corps. During her tenure in the Bush Administration and in her current role, Wallace has traveled to 70 countries.

Ms. Wallace serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, the Advisory Board of ARZU Studio Hope, the Advisory Board of 4word Women and the Advisory Board of All In Together, an bi-partisan organization that promotes women’s engagement in political and civic life.  Ms. Wallace is an ex-officio member on the Human Freedom Advisory Council for the Bush Institute.  Ms. Wallace wrote the foreword for the book Work, Love, Pray, which was released in 2011. A native of California, Ms. Wallace graduated magna cum laude from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with a focus in international relations. 

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