Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy February 2014

Social and Economic Gains for Women

Afghan Women and the Post-2014 Economy

CFR Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon weighs in on the status of Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. With more girls in school, improved maternal mortality rates, and greater female political participation, Lemmon lauds the gains Afghan women have seen in the past decade. Drawing on research published in a 2013 Building Markets report, Afghan Women's Economic Participation, Lemmon highlights the growing presence of Afghan women in the economy. She predicts that sustained improvements in health and education for women, coupled with a shift in social perceptions, "will allow Afghan women to contribute even more to their families and communities, and pave the way for greater prosperity for all." Catherine Powell, who joined CFR as a Women and Foreign Policy fellow in January 2014, will be writing a report on how to sustain the fragile gains of Afghan women in light of the drawdown of U.S. troops in 2014. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Expanding Financial Access and Education

CFR Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman explains how microfinance institutions are realizing their full promise as they expand access to services such as savings accounts and insurance, improving social mobility and lessening the blow of an unexpected financial shock. Referring to existing gaps in financial services, Coleman suggests opportunities for public- and private- sector partnership and regulation, and notes the need for innovative programs that address market failures, consumer needs, and behavioral problems. Her argument builds on recent meetings about the importance of giving women access to savings. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Narrowing the Financing Gender Gap

Even as the world's poor increasingly gain access to financial services, women continue to face greater barriers than their male counterparts in utilizing such services, writes Henriette Kolb, head of the Gender Secretariat at the International Finance Corporation. Kolb explains how initiatives that promote investments in women-owned businesses are one way to promote financial inclusion, stating: "With better resourced women-owned small and medium enterprises, the world could come closer to reaching ambitious goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity." Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Child Marriage and U.S. Foreign Policy

Leveraging the Role of Religion

Religious leaders can have a critical influence in changing social acceptance around the practice of child marriage, writes CFR Fellow Rachel Vogelstein. She notes that although child marriage is not associated with any single religion, proponents of the practice often point to religious justifications that "allow" for early marriage. Highlighting programs that work with religious leaders and organizations, she discusses how religious leaders can be valuable allies in combating child marriage. Read the blog post on the Development Channel »

Understanding Child Marriage: CFR InfoGuide

CFR recently launched an interactive InfoGuide that explores how child marriage threatens global prosperity and stability. "CFR's Child Marriage InfoGuide explains why ending child marriage has risen in importance on the U.S. and international agenda," writes Vogelstein in a Development Channel blog post. "As the InfoGuide shows, addressing this practice is not simply a moral issue—it is a strategic imperative to improve global health, education, economic growth, and stability." View the InfoGuide on »

Female Political Leaders

Increasing Female Political Representation in Africa

On January 20, Catherine Samba-Panza was elected interim president of the Central African Republic, a move that CFR Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies John Campbell calls a "hopeful choice." Campbell writes on the significant challenges facing Samba-Panza, the Central African Republic's first female president, as she strives to resolve the ongoing conflict between Christian and Muslim militias and steers the country toward elections in the coming year. Yet Campbell remains optimistic regarding Samba-Panza's potential, as long as international allies continue to invest in the country's future. Read the blog post on Africa in Transition »


Seeking 2014-2015 Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship Applicants

The Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship is open to applicants who have distinguished credentials in the field of journalism and who have covered international news as a working journalist for print, broadcast, or online media widely available in the United States. The online application deadline is March 1, 2014. For more information, please contact


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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