‘There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women,” former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan once said.As we mark International Women’s Day, Israel is proud to be a champion for the empowerment of women and gender equality.Since its founding, Israel has been committed to a vision of a society of equal opportunity.Our Declaration of Independence guarantees equal rights for all citizens – regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. By giving women the opportunities, the possibilities and the tools in the workforce, we will promote gender equality through economic empowerment. This is a win-win situation not only for women, but for society at large.I strongly believe that the inclusion of women is key to opening the door to a sustainable peace.Despite the troubled region we live in, it is an honor to be part of a society where we champion the empowerment of women and gender equality: where we have a woman, Golda Meir, who served as prime minister (the third woman in the world with that title) a woman as the chief justice of the Supreme Court for the second time now; women fighter pilots and in other top military roles.I firmly believe that women should be free to choose their own path in life, unhindered by barriers and bias. This freedom paves the way for a better and more stable society for all. In our efforts toward peace and security, Israel believes that women are powerful agents of moderation, particularly in the face of extremism. As leaders and decision makers we can be a stabilizing force. Especially in this region of the world, women are an untapped potential for more peaceful societies.Indeed, on a local and state-wide level, I want to see Arab women in Israel more involved in society. This will make for a better and more secure Israel from within.The peace and prosperity of tomorrow depend on the path we take today. Gender equality and equal participation are the first steps on the road to conflict resolution, and peace building.As a mother, I want to be able to tell my two young daughters that they will never suffer from violence, exclusion and gender discrimination. I want to promise them that as they grow up, they will be free and no one will ever strip them of their rights because of their gender.This is the promise all women and all girls deserve, and it is our responsibility to make this commitment a reality.The writer is Israel’s minister for social equality.