Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
March 8, 2021
Thank you very much, Brenda. And thank you to Congresswoman Frankel, Congresswoman Lee, Speaker Pelosi, and all the other members who have afforded us the opportunity to speak here today. It really is an honor for me to be here with such extraordinary panelists, and speakers, and Members.
This morning, I attended an event by – hosted at the State Department honoring courageous women around the world. These women were simply remarkable.
There was a nurse from Venezuela leading the push for democratic change and a lawyer in Sri Lanka defending victims of enforced disappearances. A Nepali woman who demanded new legislation criminalizing acid attacks after suffering through one herself when she was only in her teens. An Iranian chess master who, after being photographed without her hijab, braved her government’s threats to champion women’s rights. And we honored seven courageous Afghan women who were killed just for speaking up and making contributions to a safer, stronger world for women.
This is what women who are devoted to women and who are feminist – these are the kinds of activities that those women take on. And there’s so many others who are unnamed who support our feminist agenda and support the work of women achieving peace across the world.
I found them so inspiring. Their courage was contagious. And their stories illustrate why we’ve made women, peace, and security one of our top priorities at the United Nations.
On my first day as Ambassador, which was just last week, I met with women working on the ground in Yemen to address one of the world’s first* humanitarian disasters. The WHO estimates two million children under the age of five are at risk of starvation and acute malnutrition as the result of years of conflict in Yemen.
Women are on the front lines of this urgent humanitarian crisis – and so many crises around the world. And that’s why, during my presidency of the UN Security Council this month, I’m bringing the voices of women experts into our Council meetings wherever possible, to ensure that their voices are valued and that their voices are heard.
In fact, earlier today, the U.S. teamed up with Ireland, Mexico, Kenya, and Tunisia to convene a meeting on women, peace, and security. And we focused on the participation of women in UN-led peacebuilding efforts.
And later this month, I have the honor of serving as the co-head of the U.S. Delegation to the 65th Commission on the Status of Women, the premier annual meeting at the UN dedicated to gender equality. CSW attracts the second-highest level of global participation at the UN after the UNGA. And we’re going to be honored this year that Vice President Harris will deliver the U.S. statement on March 16th.
This year’s theme of political participation and combating gender-based violence are timely. And they highlight key elements of the Biden-Harris administration’s work toward gender equality. This month, I’m proud to be leading the most diverse delegation to CSW that we’ve ever had.
One of my goals is to get even more women involved – in peacebuilding, ceasefire negotiations, political transitions, security institutions, and political office. After all, the evidence is overwhelming: involving women in peacebuilding significantly increases the probability that violence will end. By promoting women’s participation and leadership – in politics, in mediations, and in negotiations – we promote more security and more peace.
But, as you all know, we still face significant barriers to women’s leadership, representation, inclusion, and equality around the globe. And unfortunately, one of the greatest barriers for women is the threat of violence.
COVID-19 has significantly compounded the threat of violence against women and girls. Emerging evidence indicates that since the pandemic began, violence – particularly intimate partner violence and violence against girls – has intensified. The United Nations has called this “the shadow pandemic.” We must bring it out of the shadows and address it head on. After all, the violence is meant to silence. And we cannot allow that to happen.
COVID-19 has also exacerbated economic barriers for women around the globe. The McKinsey Global Institute recently found that, although women make up just 39 percent of the global labor force, they account for 54 percent of pandemic-related job losses. They also estimate that without interventions, the stalled progress on gender equity could cost the global economy trillions of dollars.
And women continue to bear more responsibility for caregiving, whether it’s for children who have been out of school or family members who’ve fallen ill.
So, this International Women’s Day, our work has never been more important. And I look forward to working with you to advance an agenda for women, security, and peace, both at home and abroad. I look forward, also, to hearing the discussion today. And I want to apologize in advance that I have to leave early to take a train back to New York to the other side of my job. But I do look forward to continuing to engage with all of you, both here in Washington as well as in New York.