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Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy - July 2014

Afghanistan in Transition

Examining the Status of Women

Fellow Catherine Powell assesses the political, health, and educational strides made by women and girls in Afghanistan, arguing that though these advances are significant, they remain fragile. Powell asserts that in the current transition period, the United States can and should strive to cement these gains. In a related CFR Development Channel blog post, Powell expands on the potential for U.S. involvement, highlighting President Barack Obama's recent statement that the U.S.-Afghan relationship "will be shaped by our financial and development assistance." Powell also moderated a discussion between panelists Rachel Reid, director of the regional policy initiative on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Open Society Foundations, and David Sedney, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, at a CFR roundtable focused on the report. Read the CFR Working Paper »

Girls in Fragile States

Understanding the Link Between Fragile States and Child Marriage

As part of CFR's continued research on child marriage, Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon examines the correlation between fragile states and high rates of the practice. In the report, Lemmon argues for increased research on the relationship between the two. "Child marriage does not cause fragile states," she writes, "but it does reinforce poverty, limit girls' education, stymie economic progress, and, as a result, contribute to regional instability." Yet, as Lemmon highlights, a gap exists in the data assessing the degree to which fragility perpetuates child marriage. She recommends closing this knowledge gap to allow for more informed, effective, and targeted intervention to assist women and girls in communities in crisis. Read the CFR Working Paper »

Opportunities for Girls

Seeking Innovative Solutions to Combat Global Poverty

Lemmon moderated a conversation with Shaifali Puri, executive director for global innovation at Nike Foundation, and Suzanne Petroni, senior director for gender, population, and development at the International Center for Research on Women, about how the private, public, and nonprofit sectors can partner to promote equal educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. The conversation shed light on why empowering women and girls—a critical segment of the population—will allow government and nongovernment groups to unleash the untapped potential of half the world's human capital. Watch the CFR roundtable meeting »

Taking the Next Step in Girls' Education

Fellow Rachel B. Vogelstein participated in a Brookings Institution panel on the successes in girls' education over the past twenty years and the progress still to be made. The conversation, moderated by former prime minister of Australia and Brookings senior fellow Julia Gillard, focused on why empowering leaders in girls' education can help break down some of the barriers girls face in completing secondary school. "Progress is possible," said Vogelstein, "so there's a hopeful story to tell here, that when we devote sufficient attention, political will, and resources we can, in fact, move the needle. But there are gaps." She proposed increased involvement of the private sector and the elevation of girls' education as a strategic issue, not only a moral one, as means to close these resource gaps. Watch the panel discussion »

Women on the Foreign Policy Agenda

Expanding Hashtag Activism to Protect Women and Girls

Lemmon weighs in on the use of "hashtag activism" in publicizing cases of violence against women internationally. Citing the #Farzana phenomenon in Pakistan, #bringbackourgirls in Nigeria, and #YesAllWomen in the United States, she discusses how these cases, which might otherwise have gone largely unnoticed by the global public, garnered international media attention. Lemmon suggests harnessing the power of social media to drive progress and offers concrete steps to build on the "online outrage," turning it into "real world change." Read the article on »


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CFR's Women and Foreign Policy program works with leading scholars to analyze how elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy objectives and to bring the status of women into the mainstream foreign policy debate. Among its areas of focus are global health and education, the role of women in peacekeeping, and women’s economic participation.

Rachel Vogelstein
Director and Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Catherine Powell
Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Senior Fellow, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Hannah Chartoff
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program

Valerie Wirtschafter
Research Associate, Women and
Foreign Policy Program


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