THE BLOG
10/11/2016 08:58 am ET Updated Oct 12, 2017

Commemorating International Day Of The Girl

Last December, I sat down with an extraordinary young woman named Nadia Taha. Nadia is Yezedi, a member of an ethnic minority in Iraq that has been brutalized by ISIL. After witnessing six of her nine brothers killed by ISIL, Nadia was sold into slavery. She escaped to Germany after three months, and became a brave and forceful voice advocating against ISIL's atrocities.

As I listened to Nadia -- not much older than my own daughter -- recite the unimaginable trauma she had endured, I was astounded by her courage. I could tell how hard it was for her to relive her experience. But she continued to speak out because she wanted the world to know what she and people like her had gone through -- and to spare others the same fate. It was a vivid illustration of the unconscionable suffering millions of women and girls still suffer around the world. At the same time, it underscored the undaunted strength and potential that exists in every single young girl and woman.

On this International Day of the Girl, women like Nadia remind us that lifting up women and girls is not just a nice thing to do. It is absolutely critical to our national security. When girls are empowered, communities are better equipped to handle adversity, withstand crises, and invest in the future. When women have access to healthcare, education, and opportunity, families are stronger and countries prosper. It's no coincidence that nations that marginalize women and girls are often the source of so much instability and violence. As President Obama likes to say, "The single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how it treats its women."

As a mother, I want every girl around the world, brimming with energy and talent, to have the same blessings and opportunities as my son and daughter. And as the President's National Security Advisor, I'm proud to work for a boss who has declared himself a feminist in the pages of Glamour -- and even prouder that the Obama administration has made it a priority to protect and promote the rights of women at home and abroad.

We continue working to reduce the gender-based violence that still afflicts far too many women like Nadia, from the scourge of human trafficking to sexual assault to female genital mutilation. Through agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development, we're investing billions to improve maternal and child health. We're partnering with the public and private sectors to unleash the enormous economic potential of women and girls. Women are not only more likely to invest their earnings back into their families, McKinsey and Company also estimates that leveling the playing field for men and women in the workforce would grow global GDP $28 trillion by 2025. And, because we know there's no better way to empower a young girl than to give her an education, First Lady Michelle Obama has spearheaded our Let Girls Learn initiative, which aims to ensure that millions of girls around the world can learn and thrive.

We've got our work cut out for us. But together, we can enable every woman to forge the future they deserve -- free of threats from violence, poverty, and disease, free to dream about becoming the next great engineer or doctor or head of state. One day soon, hopefully we can realize Nadia defiant and determined wish --"These crimes against women and their freedom shall stop now."