Along with our friends at Enough, Jewish World Watch has been working for more than seven years to end and prevent genocide and mass atrocities where they are happening today. Genocide and other extreme conflicts affect whole communities. Women and girls, however, often suffer a disproportionate impact because of their status in society and are subjected to all forms of gender-based violence. Women are not, however, solely victims during war and conflict. They play essential roles as survivors and rebuilders of society, often responsible for ensuring the livelihood of their families amid chaos and destruction.
In recent years, tactics of gender-based violence during conflict have become institutionalized; violence against women is used as a prime weapon of war on a scale and with a frequency that seems overwhelming. Where women’s rights are suppressed, violence against women is often ignored as a crime, with perpetrators left unaccountable. This culture of impunity breeds environments that are consistently the least stable and most dangerous in the world today. Women are grossly underrepresented in decision-making, particularly when it comes to discussion of peacemaking between warring factions. Without women leaders, hope for improvement is dim.
The Obama administration created the post of U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues in 2009, finally giving this issue a diplomatic face within our own government. The choice of Melanne Verveer to fill the position was inspired. Ambassador Verveer’s work—as Hillary Clinton’s chief-of -staff, as the founder and CEO of Vital Voices, and in her current position—has consistently recognized and muscled forward the inclusion of women leaders in every area of societal decision-making, while focusing a new lens on gender issues surrounding violence, leadership, and political voice.
Ambassador Verveer’s Office of Global Women’s Issues recently released its National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, recognizing that the economic and political empowerment of women worldwide is essential to achieving peace and critical for our own national security. The Action Plan is in line with Ambassador Verveer’s long history of highlighting not only the vulnerabilities of women but also their strength, perseverance and critical potential.
Jewish World Watch is pleased to honor Ambassador Verveer with its fifth annual “I Witness“ award on Wednesday, January 11 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. We have the utmost admiration for her tireless dedication and her tremendous influence all over the world. Following the award presentation, Pat Mitchell, the glass-ceiling-shattering CEO of the Paley Center for Media, will conduct a one-on-one interview with the ambassador. The free event will give members of the Los Angeles community rare access to leading activists on women’s issues, and we hope that you’ll consider joining us if you’re in the neighborhood. Event details and registration information are available here.
Fred Kramer is the executive director of Jewish World Watch.