Melanne Verveer - State Department

Voices of Power: Melanne Verveer, ambassador for women's issues

Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, talks about the challenge of empowering women around the world.
By Lois Romano
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009

Melanne Verveer and Hillary Rodham Clinton go back 40 years, political soul mates connected by like-minded activism and causes -- from George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign to women's rights.

Verveer was working for the then-first lady when Clinton delivered her groundbreaking speech in Beijing in 1995, declaring that women's rights can't be separated from human rights.

So it surprised no one when Secretary of State Clinton tapped Verveer as the first ambassador-at-large for global women's issues.

The recognition of crises affecting women worldwide, Verveer said, "has been evolutionary. If you look back to the '90s . . . there weren't even cables written from posts about what was happening on issues of concern to women that were really matters for our foreign policy consideration."

Verveer has been a vocal advocate for women for three decades. After leaving the Clinton White House, she co-founded the Vital Voices Global Partnership, which grooms women in developing countries for leadership roles in politics and government.

At the State Department, she has been particularly focused on the global consequences of violence against women.

"Women may not know what was in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. . . . But they do know deep inside of them, they shouldn't be victims of abuse, they should have the right to participate in the political and economic lives of their society, the right to go to school," she said.

Just down the hall at State works her husband, Philip, the new coordinator for international communications and information policy.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company