Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 13, 2022
Today’s closing session of the Black Women’s Roundtable covers a wide range of important topics from how we can be agents of democracy and global change, to how we can be advocates for women’s rights and human rights, to how we can combat climate change. One young lady came up to me to say she was interested in climate change. Where are you? Giselle, I think said she was interested in climate change. And I was so pleased to hear. I mean, she’s thirteen, fourteen years old. And she’s thinking about world issues. And we need to also advocate for and champion environmental justice as well. Those are some of the biggest, most fundamental challenges the world faces today. And it is right that we discuss them here, because I know all of you – and Black women everywhere – are on the frontlines, tackling these issues each and every single day.
Take the challenges of, as President Biden puts it, democracy versus autocracy. You can see this happening, right now, in Ukraine – we saw it happening in our own country, in fact – where an autocracy has invaded and launched a premeditated, unprovoked, unjustified war of choice against a burgeoning democracy.
And I am so proud to see Black women leading the way forward. Women like Korrine Sky, Tokunbo Koiki, Patricia Daley – the leaders of Black Women for Black Lives – who have been helping Africans who are trying to flee the war-zone. And that includes government leaders like Vice President Harris, who led a trip to Poland just this week and Romania, to advance our close coordination with our regional allies and partners on humanitarian aid, on sanctions against Russia, and on supporting Ukraine’s neighbors as they take in countless refugees. And of course, I have been so proud to be fighting on the frontlines for our values at this moment in history at the United Nations. And as Pastor Pierre said, “I am fighting and I am winning.”
It’s so important that we are on the frontlines of this work – because the challenges that Ukraine is facing are intertwined with ours. Not just on a national level, but at a human level and at a local level. When mothers have been forced to give birth in a bomb shelter, that concerns all of us. When mothers have been forced to pass their children – alone, terrified – onto a crowded train leaving the country by themselves with no knowledge that their child will get to where they’re supposed to go, that concerns us. When mothers have to take up arms to defend their families, their communities, their countries that concerns us. And this is true not just for Ukraine, but it’s true for the world.
In Afghanistan, where women and girls are being excluded from schools and jobs after decades of progress, that concerns us. In Ethiopia, where women and girls are subjected to rape as a weapon of war, that concerns us. In Liberia where I served as Ambassador – elected the first woman-ever to be elected a president on the continent of Africa and elected by women who were fighting to bring peace to their country, that concerns us. And in this area, when I hear on the news that a young woman was killed in her car with her two little children, sitting there with her, that concerns us, too. Challenges like COVID-19 and climate change affect all of us too.
We have seen decades of women’s economic gains erased by this pandemic. It forced millions more girls out of school, and caused gender-based violence to spike, not just around the world but right here in our own country. These are global challenges, but they’re also local challenges. And that means we must address them on a global scale and on a local scale. That is why President Biden has provided funding for ten new grant opportunities for established Minority Serving Institutions aspiring to host a women’s business center. That’s why the Build Back Better is providing more jobs for African Americans around this country.
That’s why on International Women’s Day earlier this week, President Biden announced that his next budget will request $2.6 billion for foreign assistance programs on gender equality worldwide, more than doubling the amount requested for gender programs last year. And that is why later this week, I will deliver the United States’ national statement at the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women – a massive, yearly session where the world’s governments come together to advance gender equality. This year, we’re particularly focused on our role in combatting the climate crisis, so young lady we need you in the future, which we know is already having an acute effect on Black women around the world. The upcoming panel that we will all be listening to will take on all of these issues and more. And I can’t wait to hear what they have to say because we need all the brilliance we can get. And we cannot leave out Black voices among the brilliant people who are talking about these issues.
With so much at stake, we need all of your help. We need your collective wisdom, we need your strength. We need your ideas and your inspiration. We need your attention. We need your advocacy. We need your voices as Pastor Pierre just reminded us. We need you to be agents for change. We need you to be agents for democracy and for global change. Together, I know that with your power, and your prowess, we can address the world’s challenges head on. And we can lift up Black women and girls around the globe, and around this table.
Thank you very much.