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Empowering women is critical
to global progress and prosperity. This was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton's message to the women of Africa. "This is not just a moral
imperative," she said, "it is an economic one as well. When women are
accorded their rights and afforded equal opportunities in education, health
care and gainful employment, they drive social and economic progress. When they
are marginalized and mistreated, as is the case in too many places in
Africa," said Secretary Clinton, "prosperity is impossible."
The women of South Africa have helped to make the country an economic anchor
for the continent. Across the country, women are leading small and medium-sized
businesses that are the foundation of economic progress. One of these
entrepreneurs is Sally Marengo. She started the KPL Aluminium and Zinc
Die-Casting factory, which now manufactures car parts in Befordview. Across
Africa, women are driving positive change. Kenya's Wangari Maathai has launched
an international movement on behalf of environmental stewardship. Liberia's
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has taken the reins of a nation once gripped by
civil war and proven that women can lead at the highest levels.
But in many parts of Africa, and indeed the world, the picture is not so
encouraging. Laws deny women the right to own property, access credit or make
their own choices within their marriage. Women comprise the majority of the
world's poor, unfed, and unschooled. They are subjected to rape as a tactic of
war, so-called honor killings, maiming, trafficking, genital mutilation, and
other violent degrading practices.
"In the face of such depravity," said Secretary Clinton, "the
world must speak with one clear voice: this violence must end." The United
States is working to develop partnerships across Africa to ensure that the
rights of women are protected and respected, and that they have the opportunity
to pursue an education, find a good job, live in safety and fulfill their own
potential. The United States believes in Africa's promise. It is a continent of
opportunity, home to more than eight-hundred million people -- more than half
of them women -- ready to build, create, and thrive.