Women, Girls, and Public Diplomacy
Tara Sonenshine, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs<
Photos | Transcript

altWashington, DC—On December 5, 2012, Tara Sonenshine, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, spoke with WFPG members and guests about women, girls, and public diplomacy. Her remarks included highlights from her recent trips to the Dominican Republic, Japan, Turkey, and Bosnia, as well as explanations of State Department programs to empower women through leadership programs, pursuing jobs in STEM fields, entrepreneurship initiatives and sports diplomacy. The discussion was moderated by WFPG President Patricia Ellis.

Sonenshine spoke about State Department programs created to empower women such as the International Visitors Leadership Programs that bring leaders together from around the world. Examples of some of the programs mentioned are the African Women’s Forum and TechWomen from the Middle East. STEM programs encourage women and girls to get involved in and pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Entrepreneurship programs have evolved but Sonenshine explained that the emphasis of these programs now has to be on sustaining female-owned businesses, not just on creation. Sonenshine is a huge advocate of sports diplomacy programs, which teach women about participation and engagement. In her words, “You know what happens when you empower women and girls through sports? You coach them. You are coaching them to expect and demand parity on the field and off the field.

Regarding the issue of what will happen to women in Afghanistan once the US and NATO leave, she discussed that the US Embassy in Kabul’s program “16 Days Against Violence” campaign, the first female-only internet café in Herat, and other grant programs that will ensure the growth of female participation in Afghanistan after US troops leave in 2014. She also discussed the Egyptian “Share the Mic” competition, which is similar to “American Idol”, to promote engagement and bonding among the participants. On mentoring, Sonenshine spoke about an upcoming State Department program, which will promote mentoring in the fields of science and technology for women pursuing careers in arms control and verification.

Other topics of discussion included: maintaining the congressional budget for public diplomacy programs, including men, especially young men, in the discussions about women and public diplomacy, human trafficking in Asia, and using entrepreneurship programs to create a domino effect of female entrepreneurship within countries.

On her recent trip overseas, Sonenshine explained that in each country she visited, women voiced different concerns. In the Dominican Republic and Turkey, domestic violence is a huge issue and in Japan, women struggle to be able to study overseas. In these countries civil society is growing but in some places like Bosnia, the growth of activism in areas such as LGBT rights has led to persecution by the government.


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WFPG President Patricia Ellis opens the program

  Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine addresses
WFPG members and guests

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Patricia Ellis and Tara Sonenshine engage in conversation

  WFPG Board Member Gail Leftwich Kitch with
Tara Sonenshine and guests

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WFPG Board Member Diana Villiers Negroponte

  Tara Sonensine with DCMs Anna Nengenge of Namibia
and Jane Frances Nankwenya of Malawi

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Tara Sonenshine with Ambassador Carmen Moreno of the
Inter-American Commission of Women at the OAS

  Steluta Arhire, DCM of Romania, at the reception

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