Sen. Boxer: ‘We’re Still Battling’ for Women’s Equality in U.S.

By Elizabeth Harrington | March 8, 2012 | 10:44 AM EST

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) speaks at a press conference on April 13, 2011. (Penny Starr/

( – The fight for women's equality is continuing in every country -- including the United States, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told ten “International Women of Courage” recipients at the State Department on Wednesday.

“And I personally, I’ve never faced violence, extreme violence, like a number of you have endured. But I do know a little bit about what it’s like to be told you don’t belong somewhere, or you can’t do something because you’re a woman,” Boxer said.

Boxer told the women that while they work for equality in their own countries -- at great personal risk -- "we're still battling it, as you may or may not know if you follow the news.”

Boxer did not identify any particular  news event, but recently she has been a vocal advocate for the Obama administration's contraception mandate, which would force religiously-affiliated institutions to provide birth control and other services that violate their beliefs and teachings.

“Every step that we’ve taken to advance women has been greeted in some quarters with derision and an attempt to turn back the clock. And we’re not going to let that happen. What we want to say to our sisters around the world, the battle doesn’t stop. It continues,” Boxer said.

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The ten women being honored by the State Department come from mostly Third World and Islamic countries -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Maldives, Turkey, Colombia and Brazil.

In the words of a State Department spokesman, the honorees "range from an investigative journalist, to a head of an NGO (nongovernmental organization), to women in the political realm. They are extraordinarily courageous by any measure. They have been persecuted, kidnapped, imprisoned, threatened, raped."

Boxer -- who as a four-term U.S. senator has a measure of political power that women in the developing world can only dream of -- spoke about her own experiences:

“Women aren’t stock brokers,” Boxer says she was told when she (successfully) sought a career in finance in the 1960s.

“When I first ran for a political seat, my challenger encouraged me to drop out because he said I was a woman and a mom and I couldn’t possibly do this job.” (Boxer went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and then in the Senate.)

Back then, Boxer said, “If you were a woman who was single, weren’t married, there was something wrong with you,” and if you were married and seeking a job, “you were abandoning your family, that’s what they told us. And if you were divorced, well that was shameful and you should just go back at home and pull down the blinds.”

But times have changed: “And that’s not the truth anymore in America,” Boxer said. “So it shows that if we keep fighting for our freedom, for our equality, things will change.”

Boxer made the remarks at a panel discussion involving ten women who are receiving “International Women of Courage” awards on Thursday in a ceremony hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. First Lady Michelle Obama was attending as a “special guest.”

The International Women of Courage award, started by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2007, recognizes women around the world who have shown courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights, often at great personal risk.