Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 20, 2021
Thank you, Ambassador. And thank you, Australia and Special Representative Patten, for co-hosting this important event, and thank you Minister Payne for your insightful and poignant remarks, and for your leadership on this issue.
I want to start by sharing the story of a Tigrayan woman whom we will call Letay. Letay told Amnesty International that she was only 20 years old when three men came into her room, some wearing military uniforms. She said: “They gestured to me not to make any noise or they would kill me. And they raped me, one after the other.” Letay was four months pregnant at the time, and she said, “I don’t know if they realized I was pregnant; I don’t know if they realized I was a person.”
“I don’t know if they realized I was a person.”
Letay’s story is one far too many heartbreaking realities unfolding in conflicts around the world.
And it was a story like this that compelled me to push for the Security Council to hold an open meeting on Ethiopia, so that women like Letay would know that the world was watching and we would hold her perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Whether it’s Ethiopia or Afghanistan or the Central African Republic, the dangers women and girls face daily should serve as clarion calls to action. One in every three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. That is a calamity and that is unacceptable. This violence is meant to silence. And we cannot allow that to happen.
This isn’t a priority for only women. It’s an urgent crisis for everyone who values peace and progress. After all, we know a simple fact: women make the world more peaceful. By promoting women’s participation and leadership – in politics, in education, in negotiations, and in every aspect of public life – we change the dynamic. We change the dynamic at the negotiating table. We change it in the halls of power. And we change it on the world stage.
For our part, the United States stands firm in our commitment to promoting the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda and protecting the equal rights of all – here at home and across the globe. We have sought to close the gender gap in leadership, by mobilizing our diplomatic programs, engaging partners, investing in women’s safety and rights, and amplifying the voices of women leaders and organizations.
In June, the White House provided its first report to Congress tracking our progress on this work. The challenges it detailed are very real. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to higher rates of gender-based violence, more economic hardship, and years of progress erased from our efforts to protect and educate girls. And amid all of these setbacks, some countries have dared – have dared – to attack references in the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in the General Assembly.
But these setbacks do not deter us. They compel us. They compel us to promote the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. And they compel us to include women, in every turn and at every turn. They compel us to build on our blueprint, to spring into action, and do right by women and girls around the world.