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Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy - August 2014

Child Marriage and Violence Against Girls

Reviewing the Data on Child Marriage

Rounding out the Women and Foreign Policy program's research on child marriage, Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon's most recent publication, Child Brides, Global Consequences, discusses the factors that contribute to child marriage and strategies that have proved effective against the practice. One-third of the world's girls are married before the age of eighteen, limiting both their educational and economic potential. Child marriage is damaging to global prosperity and stability, yet despite the urgency of the issue, there remains a significant lack of data on the subject. In this report, which is available both as an ebook and via print-on-demand, Lemmon argues for an increase in research on this practice to enable better targeted and informed policies to combat it. In a related blog post, Lemmon examines the correlation between state fragility and child marriage rates. "The high rate of child marriage in fragile states," she writes, "is the result of an intricate web of safety concerns, societal traditions, educational disruption, and limited economic opportunity." Read the CFR Report »

Outlining a Plan for Change

On July 22, the UK government and UNICEF hosted the first annual Girl Summit in London, a conference striving to mobilize domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. At a satellite event in Washington, DC, Fellow Rachel Vogelstein moderated a panel discussion on the initiatives taken by both the U.S. and UK governments to tackle the issue of violence against young women. Vogelstein underscored that these problems pose not just a moral challenge but are also security issues. Touching on the overlap among these challenges, the panel discussed the "importance of employing an integrated framework...that emphasizes the intersectionality [among] health, education, [and] employment opportunities." Watch the panel discussion »

Afghanistan After the U.S. Withdrawal

Empowering Afghan Women

With the Afghan presidential election still unresolved, Fellow Catherine Powell assesses the role of the United States in preserving the gains made by Afghan women and girls. In a CFR Working Paper, Women and Girls in the Afghanistan Transition, she argues that this is the time "to cement and extend gender-equality gains, close the gaps, and prevent reversal." Powell examines the deal that Secretary of State John Kerry brokered to recount votes in Afghanistan's disputed presidential election in a related blog post. She encourages Kerry to ensure that the new government will support women and girls, laying out five specific steps that the United States can take to maintain these advances. Powell reminds readers that investing in women is the surest way to guarantee Afghanistan's security, stability, and development. Read the CFR Working Paper »

Preventing Another Iraq

Powell and Research Associate Amelia Wolf compare the situations of women in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a recent blog post, they discuss the rise of the Sunni militant group Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which they attribute to a hasty U.S. withdrawal. Powell and Wolf warn that if the United States does not take precautions in Afghanistan before its drawdown is complete, it risks a Taliban resurgence. Powell also participated in two interviews with Voice of America's International Edition on July 21 and July 22. Powell cautions that U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could undermine the stability that has enabled women to participate in public life since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The United States must lead the way, Powell argues, by bringing other international partners to the table to safeguard and further advance the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. Read the blog post on the Development Channel. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

U.S. Foreign Policy and Women's Issues

Promoting Women and Girls in the International Arena

Vogelstein presided over a conversation with Catherine Russell, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues. The discussion focused on the growing body of evidence that elevating the status of women and girls advances U.S. foreign policy interests by promoting prosperity, stability, and security. Russell describes the steps that the United States is taking to foster the full participation of women and girls in the social, economic, and political lives of their nations. The "overarching challenge," Ambassador Russell noted, "is integrating gender into all the work at the State Department." Listen to the roundtable conversation »


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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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