I just wanted to begin by thanking you all for being here and thanking you for your dedication to and participation in the CSW. And more broadly, thanking you for your commitment to the worldwide movement for the empowerment of women and girls. We are so fortunate to have here today my friend and colleague Ambassador Rick Barton, and my good friend and colleague Tina Tchen, from the White House, who you got to hear from and will hear more from her. She embodies, in many ways, the President’s extraordinary commitment to advancing the rights of women and girls.
He said yesterday in his proclamation, “Our nation's commitment to women’s rights must not end at our own borders, and my Administration is making global women’s empowerment a core pillar of our foreign policy.”
I can tell you that up here at that United Nations that is what we are trying to implement, very concretely, every day. And that that is the commitment that I want to just talk about for a few minutes with you all. And I wanted to start, because we are joined today by members of Girls Learn, the Girl Scouts and The Grail, I want to talk about youth for just a quick second. Our work at the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women is particularly important to your generation.
We are here to work toward a world where women and girls everywhere can fulfill their god-given potential, free of fear, free of want, and with the opportunity to live their own dreams. Many of us here in this country may take those opportunities for granted. But when women are held back anywhere, the world is held back. When girls lack equal opportunity and education nations fall behind. And we have seen that, sadly, played out in many parts of the world. So, fifteen years after the Beijing Conference the world can still be, as you all know, a bleak place for far too many women and girls.
Ambassador Melanne Verveer noted yesterday, a decade after the UN established the Millennium Development Goals related to maternal and child health, that an estimated 530,000 women still die every year from largely preventable complications in pregnancy or childbirth. That leaves 1 million children motherless each year, and these children are at increased risk of death within two years of their mother’s death. And, I think we all agree that this is plainly just unacceptable.
That’s why the United States is so proud to sponsor a resolution at this session on the importance of reducing maternal mortality and morbidity, and improving women’s health by empowering women.
The United States is also strongly committed to strengthening international action to stop the targeting of women and girls in conflict -- atrocities that shock us to our core. Many of those who survive attacks are children, and mostly girl children. That’s why the United States drafted and led the adoption, last September, of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1888, which mandated that UN peacekeeping missions protect women and girls from violence in armed conflict and establish a Special Representative to lead and coordinate those lifesaving efforts.
In the UN General Assembly, we joined with many partners around the world to champion the creation of a new United Nations entity to coordinate work on gender issues and replace the old, fragmented structure. This new organization needs to be created swiftly, it needs to be staffed well, and fully resourced. A key component of this will be the prompt appointment of a dynamic, strong, high-level Under Secretary-General and Executive Director to head this new organization. We are determined to work to ensure the new entity has the vigor, the resources, and the stature that the world’s women and girls deserve from this UN system.
The Obama Administration is also working with our partners internationally to improve women’s welfare through targeted investments in agriculture, nutrition, and health, as well as through programs that empower women to contribute to economic and social progress in their own communities. And we are following through on the commitments that the President made in Cairo to promote access to education, improve literacy, and expand employment opportunities for women and girls in the Muslim world.
We have taken important steps, and you all know that we have a lot more stuff to do. As the President said yesterday, “we are tasked with writing the next chapter of women's history.” And that of course means world history.
And we can do that together. We can improve the lives of women. We can lift the sights of all our daughters. We can help build a world in which equality is a reality rather than a rhetorical device or an ideal. Susan B. Anthony put it well back in 1872, the United States, she said, was founded “not to give the blessings of liberty but to secure them”—founded by “the whole people—women as well as men.” This is a truth that we finally, truly need to hold to be self-evident. These are the rights that we really, truly need to make inalienable. And I look forward to our good work here together to work towards fulfilling that universal promise—to build a world in which liberty, equality, and dignity for all women are a birthright, not just a dream.
So I want to thank you again for being here. Thank you for your hard work and your commitment and to the progress that we will make together over the course of these two weeks.
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