Thank you, Madam President, and thank you to our briefers.
Throughout my years of public service, I have encouraged women to use the power of their voice. I have been inspired by my mom, who went to law school and was offered a judgeship in India but was unable to take the bench due to the challenges for women at that time. I’m inspired by my daughter, who inherits a world in which opportunities for women to use the power of our voices to advance justice, prosperity, peace, and security have never been greater.
Here at the United Nations we have combined this passion for amplifying women’s voices with a belief that human rights issues – including the rights of women and girls – are a critical element for peace and security. When women’s voices are silenced – either through violence, lack of political rights, or lack of education – entire communities suffer, and that suffering leads to conflict.
In the Sahel region, the Security Council has said many times that the only solution to widespread conflict is a comprehensive approach. And that means empowering women, in both politics and the economy. The International Peace Institute has found that when women are involved in brokering and implementing peace agreements, these agreements are more likely to last. When women are involved in peacemaking, they enlarge the scope of agreements to include social priorities like children and families.
The United States supports increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping activities. But to understand the linkage between women’s fundamental rights and international peace and security is to understand that empowering women reduces the need for peacekeepers in the first place. When women participate in all social, political, and economic activities, local and national economies flourish. When women and children’s rights are protected, life gets better. Health, wellbeing, and educational levels improve. And all of these things come together to protect and reinforce peace and security.
The United States is strongly committed to empowering women in developing communities from the ground up. We work to ensure that our assistance goes directly to the kinds of women I meet with on my trips abroad: the mothers struggling to feed their families, educate their kids, and create a future for their families and their communities. The women pushing through barriers to have equal political representation. The entrepreneurs, pioneers, goal setters, and other extraordinary women changing the face of society.
Across Africa, the U.S. is helping to build the capacity of regional organizations and the African Union to support women’s political participation. We are honored to be working with Special Envoy Diop on the Continental Women, Peace, and Security Results Framework.
In the Sahel, the United States Agency for International Development is working to build stronger connections between the programs it funds in food security, health and microenterprise, and community development. Ivanka Trump is working to give more women in emerging markets access to financing and capital. As she reminds us, women are the world’s safest borrowers, paying back microloans at 97 percent. In addition, women business owners create a multiplier effect in communities. They are more likely to hire other women and reinvest in their families and their communities.
And in Niger, USAID is engaging women in community dialogues and local decision-making in order to prevent violent extremism in vulnerable communities. Traumatized, uneducated young boys are prime targets for radicalization. Nobody understands this better than their mothers.
The thread that runs through all of these efforts is that when we bring together women with power and resources, we create deeper, more sustainable prosperity. And that stability and prosperity protects human rights and promotes security.
I recently spent some time with a woman who understands better than most the consequences of the failure to protect the rights of women. UN Goodwill Ambassador for Africa Jaha Dukureh is an inspiration because she speaks from personal experience. When she was one week old, she was the victim of female genital mutilation. When she was fifteen, she was forced into child marriage. But she managed to escape all of that. She beat almost impossible odds, got an education, and became an advocate for the world’s most vulnerable girls and women.
Ambassador Dukureh has found the power of her voice. She should inspire all of us to follow her example – to do more than pay lip service to women’s rights. To seek out girls and women. To listen to their voices. Protecting their rights actually creates opportunities that benefit the cause of international peace and security.