Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Secretary of State’s Annual International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Washington, D.C.
March 8, 2021


Good morning. I’m so inspired by what I just heard, the descriptions of all of these wonderful women. I’m almost speechless. I don’t know that there’s anything more to say other than ‘thank you.’

Please – thank you, Secretary Blinken, for inviting me today – and honoring all of us here – to come to the State Department, and hosting this extraordinary event. And I’m especially thankful to Dr. Biden for joining us here and honoring us with your presence.

I’m in awe of the heroines we are celebrating today. Seeing your bravery, hearing about your strength – it’s beyond inspiring. You have organized mass protests and protected vital human rights, and you stood up to autocrats and authoritarians – who, I might add, seem to be mostly men. Sorry, Tony.

Perhaps most important of all, you have shared your stories with the world – often at great personal risk to your lives. That is a tremendous service, because your courage is contagious. I have no doubt that each of you has inspired other women to organize, demand equity, break down barriers to a stronger, more secure, and more peaceful world.

I know this is true because women like you – on the front lines of humanitarian work, peace-building, and equal rights advocacy across the globe – have inspired me throughout my career. You are why I made peace and security a focal point of our work at the United Nations this week.

On my very first day as Ambassador, I met with women working on the ground in Yemen to address one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The WHO estimates that two million children under the age of five are at risk of starvation and acute malnutrition as the result of years of conflict.

Women are on the front lines of this urgent humanitarian crisis – and so many conflicts 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 women’s voices are valued and are heard at the United Nations.

After all: women make the world more peaceful. That is not just anecdotal. It’s a fact. I lived and worked in Liberia for four years and I saw the amazing work that women were able to do there to bring peace. And by promoting women’s participation and leadership – in politics, in mediations, and in negotiations – we promote more security and more peace.

Yet, women continue to face enormous barriers to representation and leadership, particularly the threat of violence. The seven Afghan women we honor today are a devastating testament to the violence perpetrated against women across the globe, simply for speaking up and contributing to a stronger, safer world.

The violence is meant to silence, and we cannot allow that to happen. We must address it head on. We must ensure that their voices continue to be heard.

And that’s why it’s so important that today, and every day, we continue to spotlight their work. We must continue to show the world how much it means when you insist on your presence or persist for equity and for justice.

In closing, I want to thank you for your bravery. I want to thank you for your resolve. I want to thank you for your resistance and your resilience. And for all that each of you are doing each and every day to make the world more equal and more peaceful, and a place that we can leave to our children.

Congratulations to all of you, and thank you for your service.