Jill Biden Travels To Africa On Female Empowerment Mission

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The wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, has kicked off her summer like no other: with a trip to Africa to be an advocate for female empowerment. Actually come to think of it, that sounds like the kind of summer vacation we would want to have, one where we learn about women around the world and how certain issues affect them and what we can do to help.

Jill traveled to Zambia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo to educate herself on how education, entrepreneurship and empowerment can go a long way to helping generations of women live the lives they deserve.

She was accompanied on the trip by Rajiv Shah, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Catherine Russell, the U.S. ambassador at-large for global women’s issues.

The White House said in a statement that Jill will spend her time meeting with government and NGO’s to discuss the ways they tackle women’s issues such as rape in conflict zones, which has become an all-too-common practice in many African nations who have suffered tragic wars.

It is the very reason Angelina Jolie hosted the ‘End Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones’ summit in London a month ago to help governments and legislators know about the issue in-depth, find ways to help victims get the justice they need, and bring perpetrators to account for their crimes. It was the very first summit dedicated to this specific issue, which is rather surprising because these are not exactly new issues. Nevertheless, it has finally happened and the more women in influential positions can advocate important issues the more awareness and action is increased.

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During her time in the Congo, Jill said that US financing of projects had helped provide medical and psychological assistance to 13,000 victims in the country last year, and close to 4,000 women received legal help.

She visited the Panzi Hospital in the Congo to commend Dr. Denis Mukwege, an internationally renowned gynaecologist who founded the hospital in 1999 and whose team has treated tens of thousands of victims.

“Thanks to your extraordinary efforts to fight against sexual violence, to fight against impunity and to offer services to survivors,” she said. “Not only do you improve the lives of thousands of Congolese women but you help change the face of Africa.”

Jill had a chance to meet with female entrepreneurs and speak to them about the importance of their contribution to their economies, and encourage them to take up positions of public leadership. There are a lot of countries in Africa where traditionally the women raise an look after the home and family, but who also work to bring in an income, as outlined in the amazing documentary ‘Half the Sky’.

The influence of women in political positions can make a huge difference to entire communities, as we have seen happen in countries such as Rwanda, and Central African Republic where there is a significant female presence in these governments.

 


Jill certainly knows the value of education, being an educator herself. She received a Masters in Teaching from from Westchester University in 1981, as well as Master of Arts degree from Villanova University in 1987.

Up until 2008, she was teaching at Delaware Technical and Community College which was an eye-opening time for her beyond the educational experience she previously had.

“I feel like I can make a greater difference in their lives. I just love that population. It just feels really comfortable to me. I love the women who are coming back to school and getting their degrees, because they’re so focused,” she said about her experience before making the move to Washington D.C with her husband when he became Vice President.

Jill Biden has previously teamed up with first lady Michelle Obama and started an initiative to showcase the needs of Military families in the US. Because of her extensive teaching experience, advocacy of women’s issues, and respect within the military community, she is considered a very valuable asset to the Obama administration.

She is also thought to be the only Vice Presidential wife who has had her own career while her husband works at the White House, which in itself makes her a fantastic role model for female empowerment.

The importance of women’s rights around the world is not something to ignore. The fact that she spent Independence Day in a foreign country shows she is serious about this. We hope, if nothing else, that Jill’s trip will serve as an inspiration as to how we can use every ounce of our life experiences for the benefit of others.

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