U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), both senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Enhancing Military and Police Operations through Women's Engagement and Recruitment Act (EMPOWER) of 2016, which would require the State Department to increase the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in its foreign military and police training programs.
"Women are grossly underrepresented in security forces worldwide," Senator Boxer said. "Investing in female leaders is not just about fairness, it is about the vital security interests of the United States and our international partners. And it is about protecting innocent lives. When women are deployed on peacekeeping missions, there are fewer allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. Women soldiers and police are uniquely capable of reaching out to underserved populations, demobilizing and reintegrating female ex-combatants, and mentoring other women."
"The underrepresentation of women in international security and peacekeeping forces has an adverse impact on mission effectiveness," Senator Shaheen said. "Women bring an invaluable and necessary skillset to their units. We know that women all across the globe are ready and willing to meet the challenge of serving in security forces alongside male colleagues. Through our support of foreign security forces, the United States is in a position to empower women through participation in security forces, and that is why I'm very proud to support this legislation."
The legislation provides concrete targets for female participation in all of the State Department's security assistance programs based on data provided by the State Department. Currently, the State Department runs a number of dedicated programs that provide training and assistance for foreign military and police forces. The EMPOWER Act will require the State Department to increase the participation of women in foreign military exchanges, peacekeeping training, programs to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and police training.
Senator Boxer is the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues, the first Senate committee to focus on women's issues worldwide.