Australia will be at the forefront of global efforts to promote the role of women and girls with the creation of an Ambassador to advocate on their behalf.
The Gillard Government today announced career diplomat Penny Williams will be Australia’s first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.
The Prime Minister said that in the role, Ms Williams will ensure the needs of women and girls are properly represented in Australia’s overseas development program and in foreign policy more broadly.
Women and girls make up two thirds of the one billion people in the world who lack basic literacy skills, with almost 35 million girls world-wide not getting even basic primary-level education.
By improving access to education and health services for women and girls, we are able to lift families and communities out of poverty.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said that the evidence shows that aid spending is more effective when women are central to our investment.
The Ambassador’s priorities include co-ordinating and promoting Australia’s work to eradicate violence against women, improving access to services for women, the protection of women and girls in conflict zones and increasing the representation of women in leadership roles.
Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, said as a prosperous and wealthy nation, Australia has a responsibility to work for the safety and opportunity of women and girls across the world.
The gender equality initiatives the Australian Government has driven over the past few years are significant, most particularly the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children which is being used by UN Women internationally as a model for other countries.
Ms Williams will focus particularly on the Asia Pacific region which was ranked lowest in the world by the United Nations Development Programme on a range of gender indicators including access to education, employment and political participation.
At home, Ms Williams will champion the needs of women and girls in Australia’s foreign policy thinking. On the world stage, she will be an international advocate for the Australian Government’s work.
On 16 September, Mr Rudd and Ms Williams will attend the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy in San Francisco at the invitation of the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.