For Immediate Release

Office of Press Relations

Statement by Administrator Samantha Power

Fariba Balouch grew up in Iran's poorest province as part of the Baluch community, an ethnic minority that has been systematically oppressed by the Iranian government, which blocked their access to health care, clean water, education, political representation in key offices, and even basic documentation such as birth certificates. Fariba fought back, becoming an outspoken advocate for her people. When the Iranian government repeatedly threatened her life because of her activism, she relocated to London and continued her work. When Iran detained her son and her brother to intimidate her, still, she refused to back down. 

Earlier this week at the International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony at the White House, I had the chance to help honor Fatima and 11 other extraordinary women awardees who are driving progress on behalf of their communities. These honorees, like so many women around the world, are fighting for change and for the rights and opportunities of women and girls.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate these leaders – and recognize the fundamental truth that advancing gender equality and empowering women and girls is essential to driving progress across every issue we care about, from reducing poverty to combating disease to strengthening democracy. 

Today, USAID is on track to hit our goal of doubling our support for advancing gender equality to a historic high of $2.6 billion. We are investing in programs like Generating Resilience and Opportunities for Women, which addresses the barriers that keep women from fully participating in, and equally benefiting from, agricultural and food work; the Women in the Digital Economy Initiative, which brings together public and private partners to close the gender digital divide; and our Women in the Sustainable Economy Initiative, which supports women’s leadership in economic sectors such as energy and natural resource management that are critical to our future and the future of our planet. We are also supporting efforts to prioritize family planning and reproductive healthinvesting $557 million in partner countries to deliver evidence-based, high-quality maternal and reproductive health care so more women and girls everywhere have the opportunity to decide the futures they want for themselves and to lead healthy, productive lives. 

From climate change to the global food crisis to the first rise in extreme poverty in two decades, the challenges we face are simply too big to address with only part of the population able to fully contribute. The more we remove the barriers that hold so many back, the more potential we will unleash – to feed the world, fight disease, end extreme poverty, educate all our children, adapt to our changing climate, and create inclusive and equitable societies where all people have a chance to thrive. 

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