Paris attacks highlight need to stop extremists that repress women-US official

by Belinda Goldsmith | @BeeGoldsmith | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 17 November 2015 11:23 GMT

Cathy Russell speaking at the Trust Women conference in London, November 17, 2015. /Thomson Reuters Foundation, Magda Mis

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LONDON, Nov 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The deadly attacks in Paris by Islamic State militants demonstrate the need for world efforts to crack down on extremist groups that try to repress women and girls, a leading U.S. women's rights official said on Tuesday.

Cathy Russell, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, said last Friday's suicide bombings and shootings in Paris that killed 129 people reinforced the need to escalate efforts to combat Islamic State.

Islamic State, known as ISIS or ISIL, has claimed responsibility for Friday's coordinated attacks, saying they were in retaliation for France's involvement in U.S.-backed air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

"Women and girls have been a particular target for ISIL, just as they are for other groups ... that view progress of women as a threat," Russell told the Trust Women conference on women's rights and trafficking run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"That mindset and that evil cannot go unchecked by the international community. We have to redouble our efforts .... It is time to reaffirm out commitment to equality and to women and girls everywhere," she added.

Recent reports of Islamic State's sexual enslaving of women and girls as young as 11 have provoked international outrage while the group has defended its practice of slavery and rape.

The treatment of women within the hardline group has also come under scrutiny. An English translation of an Islamic State women's manifesto released earlier this year said women must stay behind closed doors and leave the house only in exceptional circumstances.

At the opening of the two-day Trust Women conference, Russell said it was unacceptable that such groups were allowed to threaten women and to deny them education, jobs and economic empowerment.

Data shows that 60 million girls internationally are out of school. One in three women globally will face gender-based violence in their lifetime.

Russell said it was critical women were given the opportunity to participate fully in a country's economy as that benefits their families and their country - and that started with education.

Studies have shown that every year of secondary school education can boost a woman's earnings by 15 to 20 percent.

"When women are held back, the world is held back as well," Russell told the conference attended by 550 delegates from 60 nations.

"We recognise the power of women leaders at all levels of society ... and nowhere is this more true than in conflict settings or fragile states." (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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