Gender equality is a national security issue: Obama

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Washington, June 15: Gender equality is a national security issue and a foreign policy priority of his administration, US President Barack Obama has said but acknowledged that American should do more to achieve women's equality.

"This (gender equality) is a national security issue. I've made advancing gender equality a foreign policy priority," Obama said in his address to the specially convened "Women Summit" at the White House. In the seven and half years of his presidency, Obama has taken several steps to advance this agenda.

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On Tuesday some 5,000 eminent women from across the country attended this one of its kind summit at the White House. "I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like.

Of course, in my household there's no choice," Obama said amidst applause from the audience as he lives with his two daughters and the First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. One of his first acts as President was to establish the White House Council on Women and Girls, he said.

He said almost 100 years ago Alice Paul and her fellow suffragists were arrested for picketing outside the White House for the right to vote.

"Today, women make up more than half of the electorate. For the first time in history, a woman is a major party's presumptive presidential nominee. And we are here, at the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women," he said.

Obama said despite tremendous progress, a lot needs to be done. "We need equal pay for equal work. We need paid family and sick leave. We need affordable child care. We've got to raise the minimum wage. If we're truly a nation of family values, we wouldn't put up with the fact that many women can't even get a paid day off to give birth," he said.

"We should guarantee paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave too. That's how you value families. That's how employers retain great workers. And it's good for women -- because when childcare falls disproportionately on mothers, as it often does, it makes it that much harder to advance in their careers," he added.

Obama said he has made advancing gender equality a foreign policy priority. "We've implemented a comprehensive strategy to end gender-based violence around the world, from prevention, to treating survivors, to bringing perpetrators to justice," he said.

"And we're helping to remove barriers that prevent women from participating fully in their societies. We're empowering the next generation of women by investing in adolescent girls and advancing the Let Girls Learn initiative to get 62 million girls into schools," he added.

Michelle Obama, said when it comes to the issue of global girls' education, she is just getting started.

"I am so excited to continue working on this issue not just for the next seven months as First Lady, but for the rest of my life. And it's going to be good work, because there are a lot of good partners in this room. I am so looking forward to really diving in," she said.

PTI 

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