On October 1st, 2009, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, testified at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the subject of violence against women. Ambassador Verveer commended Tostan to the Senate committee for the organization’s success in developing a model program which has facilitated the abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) by thousands of communities across West and East Africa. She recommended to the committee that programs that work well, such as Tostan’s Community Empowerment  Program (CEP), be scaled up and be incorporated into the U.S. government’s international campaign to end violence against women. Other strategies discussed included defining violence against women as a human rights violation and a threat to national security, involving international religious leaders of all faiths, involving men in the campaign to improve the status of women worldwide, increasing women’s economic empowerment, increasing access to education for girls, effectively implementing UN resolutions that seek to end conflict and making violence against women a national and international priority to be addressed immediately.

Ambassador Verveer’s reference to Tostan came as part of a larger call for action to address sex-selective abortion, inadequate healthcare and nutrition given to girls, female genital cutting (FGC), child marriage, rape, trafficking, “honor” killings, dowry -related murder, and the neglect and ostracism of widows as examples of crimes committed against women. Ambassador Verveer called the issue of violence against women as “one of the largest and most entrenched humanitarian and development issues before us.”

On the subject of violence against women as a development issue, Ambassador Verveer said:

Multiple studies from economists, corporations, institutes, and foundations have demonstrated again and again that women are key drivers of economic growth and that investing in women yields enormous dividends. We know from these studies that women reinvest up to 90 percent of their income in their families and communities. And yet none of these benefits are possible unless girls are able to learn without fear and women are able to have autonomy and decision-making over their own lives, and those are the very things that violence and the fear of violence take away.

The Ambassador also argued that the U.S. Government must consider violence against women not only as a development issue, but also as a security issue. She pointed out a significant correlation between the oppression of women and both the fragility of the state and terrorism. This can be seen in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan, two locations the Ambassador traveled to recently to assess the current situation and to learn what needs to be done to improve the security of women in these locations and elsewhere around the world.

Please follow this link to read Ambassador Verveer’s written testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Violence Against Women: Global Costs and Consequences .