Thank you. For decades, the United States has been at the forefront of support for women’s rights, both domestically and globally. Together, with many of you, we have made tremendous strides; we have broken glass ceilings; and we have lodged millions of cracks in others.
Whether women and girls are prohibited from pursuing an education, serving their country, driving a car, or earning equal pay, the reminders are everywhere that our work is far from complete. So let us reaffirm, together, our global commitment to fight against discrimination and prejudice. In so doing, we must also recognize that our reaffirmations are insufficient. Words matter, but words alone do not shatter glass ceilings, actions do. And each of us – each of our governments – must act to ensure that half of the citizens of these United Nations will one day enjoy an equal chance to serve, to work, to live, to grow, and to thrive.
As we know, the Millennium Development Goals have served as an important rallying point for equality, helping the world to nearly establish gender equality in primary education and to make progress on maternal health. Yet, we remain far short of equality for boys and girls in secondary education, and more than sixty percent of young adults who lack basic literacy skills are women; thus stifling both the hopes of these women, and endangering the next generation.
A woman in a poor country is still fifteen times more likely to die giving birth than her wealthier counterpart. That is just wrong: for any mother anywhere, a bank account should never spell the difference between death and life.
The United States believes that women’s empowerment belongs at the heart of our global development agenda. This means having a standalone goal on the equality and empowerment of women and girls, and strong gender-specific targets in critical areas, including the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence, secondary education, equal access to productive economic assets like property and credit, and advances in political participation at all levels of government.
It is true that the number of women parliamentarians has almost doubled since 1995, but 10 percent compared to 20 percent only underscores the size of the equality gap remaining. We have miles to go. The goals we set are more than social aspirations; they reflect profound truths about women’s capabilities, women’s dignity, and our common humanity. Equality must be our standard, justice our watchword, and unity our strength. Thank you.
- Cross posted from U.S. Mission to the UN