Standing United With the U.S. on Gender Equality

Today, we celebrate Women's Equality Day, marking the 95th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted American women the hard-won right to vote.

On this day in 1920, British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was cheering from the other side of the Atlantic. An early mentor to American suffragists, Pankhurst's efforts led to the UK's own first steps towards women's suffrage, giving 8.4 million women the vote.

Yet our countries share a long history of collaboration, extending far beyond suffragette sashes.

In the 1970s, women on both sides of the Atlantic marched for equal pay, reproductive freedom, and protection from domestic violence. And as British women were fighting to get elected to the House of Commons, American women were launching their own campaigns for the House of Representatives.

Looking back, it's easy to marvel at how far we've come in the span of a century.

Both Congress and Parliament boast records numbers of women. Women-owned businesses are growing at an unprecedented rate. In the UK, we have our first woman Minister of State for the Armed Forces, and in the US, two women recently graduated from the US Army's notoriously challenging Army Ranger School.

However, we still have a tremendous way to go.

With children going back to school, now is a crucial time to take a closer look at the next generation of women sitting in our classrooms. In the UK, we're encouraging girls to embrace studies and careers to ensure their success. To increase the number of girls & young women pursuing careers in STEM, we have launched the national 'Your Life' campaign, Your Daughter's Future, & the Careers & Enterprise Company.

But it's not enough to ensure that girls in our own countries have access to opportunities - we must think beyond our borders to the 62 million girls around the world who are denied access to school. That's why, in partnership with nine other countries, the US and UK are working together on Let Girls Learn, an initiative to open the doors of education for millions of girls.

There are also the millions of women and girls who live under the threat of violence - be it in their own homes, or their communities.

In the UK, we've put prevention of domestic abuse at the heart of our policies. We've strengthened our laws on domestic abuse and stalking. We've increased safety measures for women, with criminalised forced marriage and a landmark Modern Slavery Act. And we are helping victims of FGM, human trafficking, domestic abuse, rape, revenge porn and online abuse with greater access to resources and support.

But in other countries around the world, sexual violence is shockingly prevalent - especially during conflict. The Bosnian War resulted in 20,000-50,000 rapes. And during the Liberian Civil War, 49% of women aged 15-70 were sexually abused. As leaders in human rights, we have a global responsibility to fight for the safety of those who cannot fight for themselves.

That's why the UK has led efforts to end the silent scourge of sexual violence in conflict. Last summer, in London, the British Government convened a Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. More than 120 nations, including the US, came together to find solutions that protect survivors and stop perpetrators.

The UK has also embraced our role as conveners and conversation-starters. In an age when powerful women are voicing their support of these policies - from superstars like Beyonce to COOs like Sheryl Sandberg -- our message can echo throughout the world.

Take, for instance, Emma Watson's He for She initiative, launched with UN Women, and lauded the world over, for its inclusive and accessible approach. It sparked an international discussion about the valuable role that men can play in fighting for gender equality.

In today's world, we are far from equal. But we are taking steps to right society's wrongs. Along with our partners in the US, we are working to ensure that everyone - regardless of gender - has the opportunities for a healthy, safe and successful life.

In 1913, British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst made one of her most famous speeches in Hartford, Connecticut. "I come to ask you to help to win this fight. If we win it, this hardest of all fights, then, to be sure, in the future it is going to be made easier for women all over the world to win their fight when the time comes."