March is Women’s History Month, established in 1987 to recognize the many women who have contributed to the success of our country. From Betsy Ross to Rosa Parks to Hillary Clinton, the United States has a rich history as it relates to women, and their struggle for equality.
In the past few decades, our country has made great progress for women’s rights. We’ve elected the first female Speaker of the House, a record number of women currently serving in the House of Representatives, and passage of a health care reform bill that will prevent insurance companies from charging women more for coverage based on their gender. Last Congress, we also passed the historic Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay.
While the United States has taken great strides over the past century, recent Republican efforts in Congress to reduce women’s reproductive rights and access to affordable health care have moved us in the opposite direction. Virginia received an embarrassing amount of national attention for invasive, anti-women legislation promoted by Republicans in Richmond. Men and women across the country have come together to speak out against the numerous attempts to take away women’s rights. I am proud to join the fight against these attacks on women’s health care.
This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is “women’s education – women’s empowerment.” In the United States today, more women than men now hold a bachelor’s degree. However, as we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, attention should be paid to the millions of women across the globe who have little or no access to education.
Expanding access to education is not just an equality issue; it’s an economic one as well. Gender inequality hinders economic progress in the third world. According to the Brookings Institute, in developing countries, one additional year of education adds about 10 percent to a person’s earnings.
Another recent Brookings study estimates that 65 low- and middle-income countries are losing approximately $92 billion per year by failing to educate girls to the same standards as boys. These countries need only look to the 7.8 million women-owned businesses in the United States to see that educating young women can help spur economic growth and help lift these countries out of poverty. Closer to home, expanded educational opportunities and an improved public school system will help our recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, I encourage you to take advantage of the women’s history month exhibits at our national museums. You can learn about special events at http://womenshistorymonth.gov.
As a member of Congress, I will keep working to ensure our laws improve the quality of life for men and women. And as a father, I will keep working to ensure that every child will have equal treatment under the law.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.