U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2003

Vital Voices of Hope at a Time of Global Challenge

Elizabeth Cheney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
Connie Morella, Former Member of Congress
Washington, DC
May 22, 2003

Opening Remarks and Introduction

Panel Moderator
Theresa Loar, President, Vital Voices

Panel Participants
Dr. Saisuree Chutikul of Thailand, Vice Chair, UN Committee on the
Rights of the Child
Arije al-Amad of Jordan, Operations Manager, Microfund for Women
Anabella de Leon, Congresswoman, Honoree from Guatemala

MS. CHENEY:  Thank you very much, Bill. Thanks everyone for coming. I know it was a little difficult to get in, but as Bill said I think we're honored to have you here, and it will be well worth your time.

I want to start by thanking in particular Theresa Loar and Vital Voices for all of the very important work that they do. I know many of you in the audience are working with Vital Voices. I've had the opportunity to work with Theresa on a couple of projects with respect to the Middle East, and there's no group and no person more dedicated to improving the status of women and empowering women around the world, so let me start by thanking Theresa and Vital Voices. Thank you. (Applause.)

We are also honored to have here Congresswoman Connie Morella, who herself has spent her entire career fighting for the rights of women and children, and it's an honor for us to have her with us today as well. So, Congresswoman Morella, thank you. (Applause.)

I want to take the chance to introduce our honorees, because we have three really distinguished and courageous women with us today. First is Ms. Arije Al-Amad of Jordan. Arije and I actually met in Jordan last October when I was honored to participate in a ceremony to award the Microentrepreneur of the Year Award in Amman. Arije is the operations manager of an organization in Jordan called the Microfund for Women, which is a women-run institution which serves microentrepreneurs and provides capital for women who have the skills but lack the ability to access funds. Because of groups like the Microfund for Women and because of Arije's work, we are seeing tremendous improvements in the lives not just of the women who get the loans but of their entire families. Arije's organization has to date extended loans to over 28,700 clients, more than 70,000 loans. And her work is truly empowering women, giving women hope and opportunity and helping to improve the lives of their families also. So we are thrilled to be able to honor Arije for her work and to have her with us today. Thank you, Arije. (Applause.)

We also have with us Ms. Anabella de Leon from Guatemala. Anabella has devoted her professional career to promoting the rule of law and to protecting the rights of all citizens, especially women and indigenous peoples. Since 1995 she has been a member of parliament, and she has been untiring in her work to point out corruption and cronyism and to fight for transparency. She's put her own safety at risk, fighting for freedom and equality, and she is a model for all of us. So I would like to thank her and say welcome to you, and we are honored to have you here. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Finally, we have Dr. Saisuree Chutikul, who is one of the world's leading voices in the fight against human trafficking. She has worked at the highest levels as a legislator and a government official in Thailand. She left specifically today a meeting in Geneva, a UN meeting, to be with us, which shows her dedication and her appreciation for the important work of Vital Voices. And she is working with the UN to create innovative models that can bring governments and NGOs together, particularly to stop modern-day slavery, which afflicts too many countries across the world today. So thank you very much, Dr. Saisuree. We are honored to have you here as well. (Applause.)

I want to take just a minute to talk particularly about the part of the world that I work on, which is the Middle East. And it's very fitting that we have Arije with us today. I think that as the title of the forum demonstrates, this is, indeed, a challenging time for all of us. But I think it's also a time of tremendous hope and opportunity. We have seen in the last few weeks the fall of a dictator from power in Iraq. And we are seeing that reformers across the Middle East are gathering influence and momentum. We have reached a moment of tremendous promise in the Middle East, and the United States will seize this moment for the sake of peace.

Peace and stability and prosperity in the Middle East, as in all places of the world, require the empowerment of women. Last year a group of 30 Arab scholars produced what is really a ground-breaking report on conditions in the Arab world, the “Arab Human Development Report.” And they identified very clearly that lack of freedom for women as one of the most tremendous obstacles to progress. If you look across the Middle East, the facts are sobering. More than half of the women in the Arab world are illiterate. In many countries they lack equal citizenship, they lack legal entitlement, participation in the workplace--public life remains out of reach, and too many are victims of crimes like honor killings, that are perpetrated by their own male relatives.

At the same time, however, we see signs of hope. In Bahrain last fall there were the first elections in 30 years for the lower parliament, and it was the first time ever that women were able to participate as candidates. Recently, in Oman, the sultan announced that in the next elections suffrage will be universal; everyone over 18, including women, will have the right to vote. Morocco recently held elections, and women were elected to parliament. And Morocco is served by an extremely vibrant, active, and effective civil society. Jordan has announced that they'll be holding elections next month, and there are provisions in place to support the election of women to their parliament. And there is a very strong and active group of women working very hard in Kuwait to secure the right of Kuwaiti women to vote.

The United States is going to continue to do all we can to encourage all of these efforts. As we do this we are very sensitive to the truth that every country is different, and America is not seeking to impose our system or our values. In his commencement address at West Point last year, President Bush was very clear about this. He said we have no intention of imposing our culture, but America will always stand firm for the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity, the rule of law, respect for women, private property, free speech, and equal justice.

Earlier this month President Bush announced a new initiative for the Middle East, which includes establishing a free trade area for the Middle East within the next decade, and also dedicating American resources, including our financial resources, to help expand economic, political, and educational opportunity across the Middle East. Helping to end the social oppression of women is a fundamental part of this program.

We have already begun launching a number of projects specifically to empower women in the Middle East. As we meet here this morning there is also a meeting going on in Cairo. We are working with the Egyptian Center For Women's Rights, which is a private Egyptian NGO, and we have gathered together women activists from across the Middle East to talk to them about the obstacles they face and about how the United States might most effectively support their work.

Last fall we brought together here in Washington 50 women from across the Middle East for campaign skills training, and also to be able to watch how we conduct our own elections. We are going to be holding a second campaign skills and leadership skills school for women in Qatar this fall.

We are funding literacy programs across the Middle East, and we will be increasing these programs, particularly those targeted at girls and women, because like microcredit, literacy has a dramatic impact --when you improve women's literacy you see a dramatic impact on just about every other indicator of development in any country around the world. When more girls and women know how to read, babies are healthier, families are healthier, and many other quality of life indicators improve.

We are also working in Morocco to expand a program that keeps girls in school. Too often when families have limited resources and they have to choose, it's the girls who end up not being able to go to school, and we don't think that should happen anywhere. So we will be providing scholarships and working with the private sector to make sure that girls have the opportunity to stay in school.

One of our most important projects is support for something called the Family Protection Center in Jordan. This project will provide a safe haven for women and for children who are the victims of domestic abuse, and it will help work with groups in Jordan who are fighting to change the laws that allow reduced penalties for honor killings.

Finally, I'm very excited about a new project we are launching with Freedom House. I am sure most of you know about Freedom House and its stellar reputation around the world for the work that it does on behalf of freedom. And every year they issue a Freedom in the World Report.

Next year Freedom House will for the first time issue a report on the status of women's freedom in the Arab world. And we are working very closely with them to fund this work, and to work with focus groups in each country in the region so that we can come up with recommendations not just for the United States but for donors everywhere to help support the cause of empowering women.

Let me just close this morning by saying that the cause of women's rights and the empowerment of women is very close to my own heart. I am the mother of three daughters, and I believe that we have no more important responsibility than making sure that our children, and our daughters in particular, grow up to be strong, self-confident, and caring members of the world community.

I want my daughters to know that every opportunity is theirs. And I don't want them for a second of their lives to ever feel inhibited because they are girls. These are lessons that I learned from my own mother. When I was 8 or 9 years old she gave me a book, the first of many books she's given me since then. This one was called Elizabeth Blackwell, First Woman Doctor. She told me then, and she has taught me since, by her own actions, that we can all be anything we want to be with hard work. My hope is that some day every little girl in every corner of the world knows that truth. So thank you very much for being here today. Thank you to Vital Voices, and I look forward to the discussion with our honorees. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER:  And now it is my privilege to introduce today's panel moderator, Theresa Loar. Theresa is no stranger either to this building or to the foreign affairs community. As a former diplomat with extensive foreign policy experience, Theresa worked at the highest levels of the U.S. Government to promote women's human rights and was a principal adviser to First Lady Hillary Rodman Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on international women's issues. Ms. Loar co-founded and directed the President's Interagency Council on Women, a task force to develop programs and policies for women and their families, as a follow-up to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. She also directed the U.S. Government policy planning and participation at the Beijing conference and led U.S. delegations on a number of international conferences on women and democracy. It is my pleasure to introduce to you the president of Vital Voices, Ms. Theresa Loar. (Applause.)

MS. LOAR:  Thank you, Bill. It is wonderful to be back here at the State Department in this room, and at this dais. I thank you very much, Bill, for organizing this forum today and for welcoming those in the community who are eager to hear and join in this discussion about the empowerment of women.

I would like to thank Liz Cheney for keynoting and opening up the session today. We at Vital Voices consider ourselves lucky to have a strong ally with such expertise and authority on our common goal to support women's leadership. So thank you, Liz.

I am going to start off our discussion with Connie Morella, who was a Member of Congress for many years from my district in Maryland. Connie has been a role model not just for women legislators in the United States, but women legislators around the world for her extraordinary effectiveness in bringing issues of concern to women and their families into the mainstream of Congress, and bringing her male colleagues along to her point of view that these were mainstream issues, and then for her particular style of grace and charm, and making people feel that they were delighted to do what she wanted them to do. So we are going to start off with remarks from Connie Morella. And we thank you very much, Congresswoman, for joining us today.

MS. MORELLA:  It's a great pleasure. Thank you. I am very honored to be here today. This is a wonderful opportunity. And as I look around I see many people with whom I have worked on women's issues, and many who are friends. Thank you for coming. It's a great opportunity for you to spread the word and for us to greet the honorees and listen to what they are going to share with us so that we can translate that into further action and encouragement.

Thank you, Chairman Keppler for arranging this event. I know it wasn't easy with the orange alert getting people in and getting the passes for people to come in. Secretary Cheney, it's a great pleasure not only to be here with you today, but to know that you are at the helm on the Middle East policies and the promotion of women in leadership, and giving women opportunities. I very much appreciate it, hearing about some of the landmarks today.

Now, Theresa Loar, when she asks you to do something how can anyone say no? There is just no way that you can avoid doing something. She's always on the right side of the issues, and she always does her homework, too. She is somebody whom I admire enormously for her commitment, her intellect, her motivation, and her friendship. (Note: these changes were made to make Ms. Morella’s comments clearer and more succinct.)

The three women who are being honored today, and will be honored this evening, just exemplify the very finest of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which is what I think--you know, with a number of good men who come as part of the brotherhood--but the sisterhood where we are all together on these issues. And, indeed, the conference, entitled "Vital Voices For Hope" is very well named.

I believe very firmly that women should be the center of foreign policy. I think it's good foreign policy. And I was somebody who was able to attend the three I guess most recent UN conferences: environment, which was in Brazil; population and development, which was in Cairo; the conference on women in Beijing. And it was interesting--whether it's environment, whether it's population and development, and certainly with women--women are the center. I mean, the concept is if you can give education, if you can give health care, if you can give opportunities for economic development, and if you can give freedom from violence, then you are developing a society, an entire society that is going to be stable, that is going to be able to be productive. And I think that's good foreign policy.

I think in the United States--and I guess kind of my role this morning is to just share a few--a few of the issues that we have dealt with in the United States, particularly in Congress, and in so doing, obviously, I point to what I consider to be a landmark piece of legislation signed by the President, the Violence Against Women Act. To give you some backdrop, we passed a Violence Against Women Act in 1994. This is where we recognize that this had been--family violence had been a dirty little secret that had been hidden under the rug. And so we expanded it to include violence against women in all areas. It's shelters, a hotline that was multilingual 24 hours, education was part of it, and so many other facets of this wideranging bill.

It was very successful, and it was recently that statistics came out indicating that frankly there was a drop in the instances of violence in the United States. I would certainly attribute a great deal of it to the fact that we did have in law the bill that helped, prevented and helped with the assistance for that, particularly because when you bring it out into the open you have more opportunities for people to report infractions or violations. So if you have a total reduction in an environment where more is open to be reported, then that shows it was significant.

Well, in 2000 we reauthorized it. We authorized it. I introduced the legislation which expanded it to make it the biggest commitment that our U.S. Congress has ever made to eradicating domestic violence and child abuse. Now, in that bill, which incidentally even included date rape and expanded into some transitional housing, a section even on immigrant women. But in that bill was also a major piece of legislation which will be ramifications addressed by one of our honorees today, and that is the human trafficking--human trafficking. We know that between one and four million females are the victims of trafficking, many times because there is--from other countries--there is the lure of the opportunity to gain significance as well as to gain money and opportunities through that where it doesn't really happen. In other instances it is for domestic help, which doesn't become domestic help. In many other instances it becomes prostitution, and obviously we know that in other countries during a time of conflict you particularly have problems of that nature with trafficking. In some instances even families will sell their females for their own livelihood and their own survival. Well, we were able to put into that bill also over a 2-year period about $92 million into combating the human trafficking. More than that has been done. We are finally trying to raise--raise the interest and the focus on human trafficking. And we have appointed--there is someone who is the point person in the State Department that deals with trafficking. As a matter of fact it's a gentleman that I worked with who was a representative from the State of Washington, John Miller, former Congressman who is involved with that. And, of course, it comes under the jurisdiction of Secretary Colin Powell. So we are doing more reporting of it, we are doing more work on it, we are putting more money into it, particularly to get other nations to assist in the endeavor and to establish a culture where this is not done.

In terms of health, I would like to just point out that here in the United States we did something which could well be done in other countries, and that is we established an office of research on women's health. Women were not included in any of the clinical trials or protocols, right in my own area of the National Institutes of Health. In fact, they even said that when they did research they even did the research on male mice--now, that's a tale. I don't know whether it's believable or not. But now they do look at women in terms of breast cancer, osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, lupus and cardiovascular diseases, and HIV and AIDS. And that has something that has particularly broad significance in the world when you consider the fact that 58% of the women in Sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV. And many of them are in monogamous marriages, too. And I was glad to see the Gates Foundation gave $60 million to helping with research for a microbicide. We, in the United States, in our budget--I have introduced legislation, and we have been able to allocate more money for a microbicide. That's like a spermicide that would prevent sexually transmitted diseases, as well as HIV and AIDS, and it would empower a woman to be able to administer it without her male partner knowing about that. But education, prevention, diagnosis, treatment--all of these things are necessary.

Unfortunately, women are reaching equity in that area, and that is something that we do not aspire toward. Obviously, education, when you consider the fact that one-sixth of the world's people are illiterate, two-thirds of that one-sixth are women and girls. Something needs to be done, because they are the ones who have the opportunity also to have the families to raise the children. That, therefore, enables them to know what vaccines their children should have. And, of course, the only way for opportunity is through education. We can see with what's happened in Afghanistan, now that we have been able to resume education, and also we hear now about what's happening in Iraq. So programs that deal with education are very important. Obviously, microfinance--we have programs like that in the United States. I was interested that even in Montgomery County, Maryland, there are microenterprise programs that are working. And, of course, this program started in Bangladesh with Dr. Eunice (ph). It's been very, very successful. Women are just good in terms of returning the money that is lent to them, and also with very good ideas, no collateral, and the opportunity to know that they can move ahead. So we will hear more about that--that they are very successful programs.

I just want to finally say that we did have a piece of legislation in the last Congress which I think is going to be reintroduced. It was called GAINS. It was an enormous piece of legislation put together by almost 150 organizations. I introduced the bill, but I must say I didn't craft the whole bill. It was done by NGOs, and that's why I want you to know how important you all are, because things don't get done if you don't have people who are working together to say, this needs to be done. Let's get together, let's formulate it, let's direct it, and let's pursue it. And that's exactly what was done. It stood for, the acronym, Global Action and Investments for New Success for Women and Girls. Now I think that's kind of stretching this acronymous society, but, nevertheless, it does say what the bill does. It deals with all of those areas, including CEDAW, you know, the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women--and I testified on that before the Senate last year--165 countries have signed it, and we are hoping to get the Senate to move ahead to finally sign that so that it can be ratified.

And so I say to you every time a girl or woman is helped, all women and girls are helped, and society is richer for it. So I encourage you. Again, I celebrate our honorees because they are there first-hand witnessing what is happening and moving it forward. So thank you all for coming, and let this be the beginning of even further action for such a very good project, and that is helping women in the world. Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. LOAR:  Thank you, Connie. Once again, you lifted us up and inspired us to look at this discussion that we are about to launch into in a larger context.

Right before we ask the first of our panelists to speak, I would like to recognize and thank those of you who are in the audience today for the work you are doing now and have done in the past to create an enabling environment and a supportive environment for the work that our honorees and other women like them around the world are doing. I know there are many former colleagues of mine from the State Department who are here today who have played important roles in doing the pioneering work of integrating women's human rights into foreign policy, and I would like to thank them and recognize them for the work that they've done. And we have members of our board of directors of Vital Voices and supporters and team members from Vital Voices who give a tremendous amount of energy and talent to this mission, and I want to thank them as well.

The wonderful idea of women's leadership and women's empowerment is a powerful idea. But you need good talent, you need good resources, and you need really good leadership to turn that idea into significant programs that will change women's lives. And many of you in the room have played important roles in that. And I thank you for that.

The first of our panelists who will be speaking is one of the women we will be honoring tonight at the Kennedy Center. This is the second year that Vital Voices is holding an awards ceremony to promote and highlight women's leadership. Women's leadership, promoting it in all sectors of society, is the key mission of Vital Voices, and we carry that program out through a leadership institute that we've developed in partnership with Georgetown University. The women who are here, some of them, have been through the leadership training. Some will be conducting leadership training of their own, and some can teach us about leadership. And we think that's very important to highlight that--not just in the awards ceremony today at the Kennedy Center, but in the work we do around the world.

The first of our panelists to speak is Arije Al-Amad from Jordan.

MS. AL-AMAD:I am so pleased to be here at the U.S. Department of the State. I would like to begin by taking this opportunity to tell you about my country's successful journey to help create a better future for Jordanians through microfinance. Our journey began in 1959 with the establishment of the Agriculture Credit Corporation, an environment organization that provided small loans for the development of agriculture in Jordan. The first formal microlending program, however, was established by the Industrial Development Bank in 1965. This was followed by other lending institutions, preliminary NGOs that had social roles as a part of their agenda. Rather than focusing on providing microfinance on a sustainable basis, when embarking on a journey one must be ready to deal with the challenges an adventure might present. With the increasing numbers of microlending institutions in the kingdom, Jordan grows to the challenge of making microfinance sustainable. An unsubsidized practice, sustainable microfinance was proven internationally accepted lending methods to provide loans to small and microentrepreneurs by using alternative criteria such as character references and joint liability through individual and group lending. As you know all, a journey is always a little bit better with a leader taking charge and some good companionship.

In 1998, the Jordan River Foundation, a non-governmental organization chaired by Her Majesty Queen Rania Abdullah, initiated a project to provide business support and training for microentrepreneurs. Her Majesty Queen Raina has underlined her strong support for microfinance and her particular interest in the promotion of best practices not only by creating a sound microfinance system, but also by supporting capacity-building programs for women. Therefore, a new generation of sustainable microfinance institutions started to emerge in Jordan, adapting international best practices to ensure long-term operational and financial sustainability.

Four of these institutions were established through support of USAID-funded AMIRA (ph) program. One of these institutions is Microfund for Women. I joined the microfinance sector with Microfund for Women 7 years ago, believing in the great potential of this industry and its positive impacts on the lives of many Jordanians, especially those ignored by traditional lending systems. As one of the founders of Microfund for Women, I am proud to have witnessed an increasing number of female borrowers, rushing down the whole way of successes and achievements. They are a living example of the true spirit of entrepreneurship.

As of April 30, 2003, Microfund for Women has extended more than 86,000 loans to around 33,000 women across Jordan with a repayment rate of 99.5%. Our institution has so far achieved sustainability up to 162% in operation, and 151% in finance. A great deal of this success is due to our belief in utilizing technology in our operational framework, particularly the integration of up-to-date management information systems.

The focus on female lenders in Jordan stemmed from the fact that women are found to run 63% of informal enterprises in the kingdom. Ninety-one percent of these women are willing to borrow money from microfinance institutions. Recognizing the success story of Jordanian entrepreneurs, an annual awards ceremony was launched in 1999 by AMIRA (ph) program under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania. The latest ceremony held last year recognized the achievement of seven entrepreneurs, six of whom are women. Today lending institutions in Jordan are tapping into a market of 74,000 microenterprises worth more than $1.4 billion U.S. dollars. These figures are remarkable in a country of more than five million people.

As Her Majesty has reiterated, different programs may adapt different methodologies, but the key ingredients remain the same: mutual interest, accountability, and a strong belief that poor are creditworthy. Our dream of empowering less-privileged women to start a business and create a future are being realized today. But more has to be done. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Thank you for including me on this panel recognizing my work and the work of thousands of women entrepreneurs. Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. LOAR:  Thank you, Arije. And your last quote about “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” is from Eleanor Roosevelt, and I have that on my wall. It was given to me by one of my team members. So I thank you for saying that. It's an inspiring thought.

I'd like now to invite Anabella de Leon, a parliamentarian from Guatemala, to speak with us.

MS. DE LEON:Thank you. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank Vital Voices Global Partnership for recognizing my work, for training me last year, and for giving me the opportunity for being here in the State Department. Thank you, sir, and all of you.

I would like to give a brief summary of the current situation in Guatemala, and I would like to address--make a brief summary of my current situation. The people in Guatemala think that we are living in the worst crisis in our history, because we are immersed in extreme poverty, misery, and hunger. We're living a crisis. The lack of compliances of the peace accords, the lack of basic services like health care, education, housing, infrastructure, and all the basic services are a serious impediment to achieve peace, democracy, and social and economic development for the Guatemalan people.

Lack of compliance with the peace accord, social unrest, incorrect distribution of the state budget, corruption--constant corruption actions and impunity, and lack of implementation of a rule, policies, development policies, as well as violence, criminality, narco-traffic, assassination, political prosecutions, and constant violation of the human rights, in addition to the weakness of a system of justice--are things that have not been resolved, and they are affecting us.

We must celebrate the compliance of the peace accords, because the peace accords offered a change to the Guatemalan people. We thought 4 years ago, when we just signed the peace accord, that everything will be changed. But now we are going back in the peace process, and now we are worried. But we are working so hard. As a Congresswoman, as a politician, I am working with women, I am working with the people of Guatemala, and I am working because I think it is my duty--I am there in the Congress representing women, representing poor people. And I need to work for getting a change, for getting a better life for Guatemalan people. We think, and I have a dream that the peace accords are going to be complied. I think the redistribution of the state budget is going to be just, because now there is an incorrect state budget distribution. And now we need to fight strongly against the corruption, because millions of quetzals of the Guatemalan people are in the pockets of corrupted persons.

Now we must fight to change to concrete actions, to eliminate impunity and corruption. Our commission for transparency and against corruption was created but without achieving any results. We must get the integration of the municipalities and the social funds. We must fight to reduce the poverty with cooperation of the civil society. This is a commitment. This is a commitment. We need to approve laws for justice, for justice strengthening, because we have a weakness in the system of justice. The threats to the judge increase. The lack of financial supports for the operation of the judicial organism, of the judicial system, does not allow the justice to reach for especially the indigenous communities. There is a lack of judges and judicial trials. Rural development--to implement a rural development policy in cooperation with other sectors. The government submitted a project that was not all the agreed by all the sectors and others have not been implemented yet. In addition, it failed to support all the families affected by the coffee crisis. The Congress has not approved the land law, and it is very necessary. It is very important. There are no achievements regarding the solving of the land conflicts.

We need to promote dialogue. We need to promote discussion, because we need the participation of women in all the sectors of the civil society. I hope that by the end of this year Guatemalans will realize the fact that we need a real change in order to be able to achieve our peace goals, our peace projects, our economical, social, political development.

I have complied a CD--this is a CD--it contains 60 legal actions that I have presented. It contains trials, announced lawsuits against the corrupted persons in the government. This is very important for me, because this is hard work. It is not easy. But I have been supported, for example, by Vital Voices Global Partnership, by you. And this is very important for me. But I am going to continue. It is very dangerous, but I think that we need to work to continue doing the best for my people. And I want to thank you, because you are--and forgive me for the mistakes, because I am so nervous at this moment. But this is an honor for me to be here. And you are hearing about Guatemala and about the crisis that we are living. But we are hopeful. We are hopeful everything is going to change, because we are encouraged. We are praying this, and we are a people that is needing a better life. We thought with the signing of the peace accords everything will be changed. But it is not late for changing. We are working. We are working so hard, and we need to believe in God first. And we live to believe in people of Guatemala, an indigenous people, in poor people, because they are needing our help. And in the Congress we are doing our duty. We are fighting a grave corruption. And I am using the power of being an elected Congresswoman for fighting against corruption. I am standing up fighting against all the viruses that are affecting our democracy, our progress, our social, and economical development, and I am here. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MS. LOAR:  Thank you, Anabella, for that message of hope and determination. I'd like to invite Dr. Saisuree Chutikul to offer her remarks about her work in Thailand.

MS. CHUTIKUL:Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, Madame Moderator, distinguished panelists, and our friends and colleagues in the audience. First of all, I would like to thank the State Department for giving us the opportunity to have our Vital Voices, and also thank the Vital Voices for making it possible for all of us to be here. I feel grateful because this is a very rare opportunity to come into the State Department even, because this is a great occasion. I was very envious of the American public that you have the State Department that organizes this kind of public forum every week. I think this is very useful, and I would propose to my Ministry of Foreign Affairs that we should do the same, because then you can also explain all sorts of things, and this is a very good communication line.

On trafficking in women and children, you probably know that Thailand is the country of all things in the sense that it's a country of destination, it's a country of origin, it's a country of transit. And more than 10 years ago there was a new dictionary that came out in England, and in the dictionary it's called "Bangkok," under "Bangkok," and it said the city with many prostitutes. And, of course, the Thai Government--(short audio break for tape flip)--got excited and protests as usual. But that's part of the problems that we have had. And we did not realize the problems until in the 1980s when there was an incident that five girls were killed in a fire in a brothel, a burned brothel, where we found the chain was locked to the legs of all these ladies and bound to the fence, the iron fence of the house. So that was the beginning of all of our action to look into this trafficking, particularly trafficking for prostitution. And you know, of course, trafficking is not only for prostitution, but also for begging, for exploitative work, and so on and so forth. It's a larger area than just the prostitution.

Another incident that happened to me personally also is that in the 1990s I was tipped off by a friend of mine, Tatas Albina (ph), whom many of you may know, that there were some girls, Myanmar girls, who were forced into the prostitution also in the southern part of Thailand, in Rayong. So we raided three brothels, and we got 150 girls and women out. And because of lack of experience, we didn't know what to do. Of course, the immigration office right away would like to deport them and fine them. And we said, can we ask that the children, the women, would be in the shelter of the public welfare department rather than the detention center--because that's a difference. And we found that many girls were beaten in the back with wounds by the coat hangers. So we interviewed them, we talked to them, but in the end we were able to repatriate them back to Myanmar. We were able to return 95 children and women officially, because they were able to identify the families and so on. And 55 were from the minority groups, the tribes groups in the northern part of Thailand. So we also were able to return them back. (Note: these changes were made for security reasons—the info. that Dr. Chutikul gave really should be off of the record, thus we do not want it printed.)

Then in Patyar (ph), which is a very famous resort place in Thailand--of course, the Thais call it "Sin City," but we were able to find a lot of pedophiles running around and also having sexual relationships with boys rather than girls, as you could imagine. And then many incidents--we raided so many brothels and everything. But out of that--that kind of situation, which we found very common at that time in the 1990s in Thailand, we have started then and there to work on the problems: How do we solve the problems? How do we alleviate the problems? And how do we put in the national agenda, which is very difficult because a lot of people still think, well, you know, trafficking, what is that?

So what are some of the things we have been doing, are doing? I'd like to list about six items for you briefly for this morning. One is that the first thing is to do legislation, because we have our law on prostitution and our law on trafficking. In fact, our law is called trafficking of women and girls, and I told you we have boys, too. So we have to change it for women and children, to begin with. And we used to think of all these people as offenders and not as victims. So we have to change the whole mentality of looking at the trafficked persons as victims. So we changed these laws. For example, for children under 18, that's crime; if you have sex with children under 18, it's a crime. And then we have to do the rehabilitation program for them, all of them. If they are the children, it's a must program. But if they are adults then it's voluntary for them. Then we also have offered the NGOs to do the work as well. In the formal law it's only government, and we know very well that the government can do very much, you know, because it's--I don't know what other governments are like, but in Thailand it's 8:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon hours, you know, and things happen beyond that. So we would like to have the NGOs. (Note: Dr. Chutikul misspoke/translated incorrectly in this case. She did not mean decriminialization in the sense that English speakers understand it. She did not explain herself clearly here, and we do not want her persecuted or attacked for this statement.)

Then we also changed the law on the investigation and child witness criminal procedure law, because these children and women--when they come to the police they always are as we call it, are raped twice in a way because the investigation methods. So now we could use videotape. We require the social works or psychologists to be with them and help with the police and training the police. And you mentioned, Madame, about the violence against children and women. We are working on that one, and I'd sure like to get that copy of yours, so that I can follow the suit and see how you are doing it, because we are drafting it right now, and send it to the parliament. So that's the first thing, the legislation.

Another one on legislation is that because we are trying to ratify the optional protocol, the protocols that are related to trafficking in children and women as part of the Transnational Organized Crime Convention. So we are looking again at our law and revise it accordingly so that we will be able to ratify it. The second thing that we do is that we realize that after our experiences with all these children and women, full assistance or cycle of assistance has to be carried out. You cannot just go to the child or the woman, rescue, and that's it, or repatriate or whatever. We have to begin with the prevention. So we do a lot of preventive measures. You know, you talk about education--that's very important. Scholarships to the girls at risk and the children at risk, and vocational training and so on and so forth. So we do a lot prevention; you do a lot of rescue; and you do a lot of protection, legislation, law enforcement, which I will tell you later that we have some problem with that part--law enforcement and prosecution and repatriation. Repatriation is very important for the cross-border trafficking. You know, we had at one time 600 children from Cambodia who came into Bangkok to beg. And that is organized crime because they were dropped in the street in the morning, and to be collected in the afternoon. They have to make so much money and so on and so forth. So the public welfare department gathered them--this is earlier on--and then we went to the border and put them there. And what happened was when the social workers got back to Bangkok, all these children were already in Bangkok. And the social worker said, how did you get them here? Well, you know, it's organized crime. So they shipped right back into Bangkok even before the social workers got back. So we thought that for repatriation we have to be very careful, and we have to work with the neighboring governments to work on the repatriation. Recovery, of course, is very important. The reintegration program is very important, because that's when you don't dump the children and the women anywhere but you want to help them. Otherwise they come back again.

The third area is the coordination. We realize that one single person, one single agency, cannot help with the trafficking problems. It's a whole range of offices among the government offices as well as the NGOs, because you cannot just rely on the police alone. So the coordination was done through what we call the National Coordinating Committee that makes up about 45 people from different areas of work, including the academics who are lawyers and NGOs, a lot of NGOs in there--international NGOs like IOM, UNICEF, and ILO--organizations like that. And we also do the plan of action. We have a national plan of action. We also have MOUs (memorandum of understanding). The memorandum of understanding between the government agencies, between the NGOs themselves, and also between the government and the NGOs, so that everybody knows what they are supposed to be doing after looking at the case.

Then the fourth thing we do is prosecution. And this is very difficult, because--well, you mentioned--my friend here mentioned police corruption and complicity with everybody. So the prosecution needs to be improved upon, and we do a lot of training with the police offices. We also do a lot of training with the attorneys. We try to do training with judges, but we have difficultly that the judges would not like to be trained. I don't know in other countries whether the judges are trained or not. We have to find a better work for them, like offer them some forum like this or something like that--we don't call them training. But we need it, because when we prosecute them all the way through the judges, and they say, okay, on probation--we don't want that. It just makes us all discouraged.

Data collection and indicators. This is what United States would like to have, after your law on the protection of victims 2000. You demand information from all of our countries, and we know this is one of the weaknesses that we have, because we don't collect them very well. Public welfare has one way of doing it. The Ministry of Justice has another. The police has another. And when you put it all together, you cannot interpret it and you cannot make any sense out of it, and we are having some problems. At least one contribution of your law is that we are improving on the data collection and the indicators.

And the last one I would like to mention is we have to do the MOU with the neighboring countries, because when you repatriate them, because we have now more on the cross-border trafficking rather than domestic trafficking, because we have improved on that one. And it means that we need to talk to Cambodia, to Laos, to Vietnam, to the southern part of China, to Myanmar. I hope by the end of this month, the last week of this month or the first week of June we are going to sign a MOU with Cambodia for the first time in history. We look at the MOU as a beginning of all the things, because we want to do the joint training together with various personnel. And we are in the process of negotiating with Laos and also Vietnam. And I visited Mr. John Miller at the State Department yesterday and also Congressman Smith. Both have been encouraging us to work with Myanmar more, so we will try to do that, too.

I would like to end by saying that we would like to congratulate the USA for trying to ratify the two optional protocols of the convention on the rights of the child, on the one on the sales of children and pornography and so on, and the other one on children in armed conflict. I thought that's a wonderful example for the United States to do. And, also, I would like to say in the final note that the violations of children's rights and women's rights related to trafficking is everybody's business, not only just the people who work in it, because we need your help, because it touches on poverty problems, ignorance, violence, as you were saying, abuses, consumerism, and other values, and particularly it's linked with the gender rights, the women's rights, and the children's rights. Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. LOAR:  Thank you, Saisuree. It's clear with all your ideas and energy that every country needs one a person like you to tackle this problem.

We'd like to open up to questions from our people who are here to join us in the discussion. If I could kick it off with one question for Ms. Cheney. Liz, in your work throughout the region in strengthening civil society and your work for women, what do you see as the biggest obstacle to the empowerment of women?

MS. CHENEY:  Thanks, Theresa. I think across the Middle East I think there really are three obstacles. I think women face challenges that are legal challenges, they face regulatory challenges, and they also face cultural challenges. If you look at the region as a whole, I think you can see in a number of countries there are simply laws on the books that make it impossible for women to have an equal shot at success--laws that prevent them from exercising their right to vote, laws that prevent them from traveling on their own passport, laws that prevent them from having their own ID cards, laws that prevent them from being able to drive. I think that there are a significant number of legal obstacles to the empowerment of women.

I think we are seeing some interesting developments in the legal area though. In a number of countries, debates are starting about the extent to which Sharia courts should continue to govern family law. There's a group of very impressive women in Bahrain, for example, who are challenging that system, who are urging the adoption of legislation that would create protections for women and treatment that is equal to those of men, so that women are not disadvantaged in cases of divorce or child custody. So I think on the legal front there are a number of challenges and also a number of interesting things going on.

You also have regulations that inhibit women's ability to succeed. I met with a group of young women at the American University of Cairo last year, and it's just such an impressive and eloquent group. One of the women was the head of the model UN at AUC. These clearly are the leaders of the future. But when I asked them about whether they felt that they had the same chance at success as their male colleagues did, it was clear that they didn't. And they gave me some interesting examples.

One young woman, who was a senior, wanted to be an architectural engineer, and she talked about how difficult it was for her to get the necessary qualifications for that, because there were regulations that prohibited her from visiting job sites. They were concerned about having women spend the night at job sites with men.

Another woman was working on archaeology, and she talked about how difficult it was for her to be able to go and visit sites in the desert, particularly where the Bedouin were, because it was viewed as very much taboo. And I think that gets into sort of the cultural obstacles.

This is an interesting challenge, because when you look at situations like Bahrain and the elections they had last year, when women ran for the first time, we were all very excited here when we saw that women would be able to run for office. And then when the results came in, not a single woman won. And the initial analysis was, well, it must be cultural. It must be that people are not comfortable voting for women. And I think that was the case to some extent. But it was also the case that the women didn't know how to organize, and they had no experience in actually putting together a grass-roots campaign, doing public speaking, doing the kinds of things you need to do to be effective. And that experience led us to this project I mentioned that Vital Voices was also involved in, bringing women to the U.S. for some campaign skills training.

One interesting story. We had a really good exchange with these women and went through a number of different training sessions on very basic campaign techniques. And we learned that some of them transfer across cultures and some of them don't. A group of the women were in New Hampshire, and they had the chance to go door to door with some women legislators who were running for office in New Hampshire. And they came back to Washington, and they said, first of all, it was fascinating to them that these women candidates would knock on a door--and I am sure Congresswoman Morella can appreciate this--(laughter)--and even if the person who answered the door was a little bit rude, they still knocked on the next door. They just were persistent, and they kept going. You didn't take no for an answer.

But then one of the women pointed out that in most countries in the Middle East this method of campaigning wouldn't work, because you'd have to spend at least an hour in every home having tea before you moved on to the next home. (Laughter.) So it wasn't the most efficient use of time.

But, I think, finally, I would just point to education and how critical education is in all of this, both making sure that women have a chance to get the same kinds of education that men do, and also making sure that education itself teaches students to interact, regardless of gender, teaches women leadership skills and training. And there's a really interesting article this week, if people haven't seen it yet. It's the cover story in Business Week, and it talks about America's experience with helping to foster girls in our school system. And it's been a fascinating evolution where you see now--because we have focused so intensively on making sure girls have opportunity--you have got schools all across America where the entire student government is now run by girls. The valedictorians are girls, and the best athletes are now girls. It's very interesting to watch what that's going to mean, I think, for our own society in the coming years. So, I think there's a lot of hope. There are a lot of very interesting women's groups in the Middle East who are finding very clever and successful ways of challenging what are very difficult and entrenched views and what we really hope to do is help to support their efforts.

MR. KEPPLER:  We have microphones set up. Please come and ask your questions. If you're near a microphone, just press the button. It makes it easier for us to do the transcript. Please?

Q: I 'm Ann Sterling (sp) of the League of Women Voters in Virginia. And I'd like to ask each of you about the availability of family planning to women in each of your respective countries and how that affects women's opportunities.

MS. AL-AMAD:  About family planning in Jordan, we take this in our consideration. The average number size of the family in Jordan, between six to seven persons, which puts a burden on the family, especially the woman, because she has to raise them, she has to support her husband to feed them. Currently, because of education, most of the women they start to think they have to reduce the number of kids. But it varies from areas to others. Still the poor people they believe they have to have more number of kids. But most of the education ladies, currently, they don't have more than two or three kids.

MS. CHUTIKUL:  In Thailand we have done quite a lot on family planning. Very early in the 1960s, in fact, we began with the family planning, and the women,, of course, usually take the responsibility for the family planning in the family, because men usually were not very active, although we try to invite them to become more participatory.

I have a friend who is a champion on family planning, and he organized the condoms festival, where he lined up the children to blow into the condoms and said that this is a balloon, and you can carry the water with it and so on and so forth, and established a restaurant called "Cabbage and Condom." And it's a beautiful restaurant, and they have condom salad and so on and so forth. So he popularized the whole idea of family planning--it becomes commonplace, and it's not taboo, it's not something you don't talk about and so on and so forth.

We are so successful that we had to abolish so many schools because there were no children. And we have to consolidate some school together because there were only two or three kids at the time. We have decreased the population rate, the growth rate from three-point-something in the 1960s; now it's one-point-something. So it's very successful. It used to be that many families have 10 children. Now average is about two. So we are doing fine. But new problems with HIV/AIDS, and that could take a long story to tell you, but I won't. But that has affected something about the size of the family and the generation gap and so on and so forth. Thank you.

MS. DE LEON:  Thank you. In Guatemala we don't have family planning. After the war of 36 years, the indigenous women were very effective by the war, and the families it's about approximately eight or nine members, for example. And they are widows now, and there were about 500,000 victims in the war. And the women are the most effective in Guatemala, and we are working in that situation. But it's very difficult because Guatemala is affected by a culture of silence, by a culture of fear. But we are working.

And one of our wars is the family planning, because we are 12 million now, and the monies it isn't enough to give opportunities to the Guatemalan people. It is going to be an excellent goal to planning the family, because we are a rich country with a lot of resources, natural resources. But we are in a crisis now, like I told you. But we are working so hard to create a change.

MR. KEPPLER:  Any other questions? Please. Just press the button. Thank you.

Q:  Thank you. I'm Joan Cavano (ph) with the Inter-American Dialogue. And Congresswoman de Leon, thank you very much for your presentation; it was enlightening about the peace accords, a little discouraging. We were encouraged by the articles that were directed to women in the peace accords. I wonder if you can tell me if there is any progress on those.

MS. DE LEON:  Thank you. I told you that Guatemala thought that 4 years ago when we had just signed the peace accord everything could be changed. But, unfortunately, this government hasn't had the willingness to change. And we are working for getting our whole peace, our objective peace process. And, for example, we need to change the distribution of the state budget, because we need to increase the social investment, because for example the peace accords said that the military budget will be reducing a little. But now the military expenses are very higher, and the social investment is very little. And this is the problem, because we need to change the distribution of the state budget to give more education, more health, more access to credit, especially to women, because women were very damaged with the war, and we need to work with them--only not just for work, in participating in all the human areas, because they are afraid. They feel fear. They feel fear. And yet because in Guatemala women were very discriminated. And now--now women are discriminated is the reality. And we need to change that. We need to work with them, and we need to give motivation to change this situation. We need more, for example, councilwomen. We need more mayor women. We need more women in the Congress, because we are eight women in the Congress. Last period. We were 13 Congresswomen, and now we are going back because we are eight. And this is our reality. But we are working to create change--with words, not with violence--because it is the way. And the peace accords- this was our national agenda for the future, for the future generations, for getting a better life for all Guatemalan people.

MR. KEPPLER:  Thank you. Please, in the back there.

Q:  (Inaudible)--with Internews. And I was wondering if you could each comment on the role the media has played in promoting awareness of women's issues or empowering women in your countries.

MR. KEPPLER:  The role of --?

Q:  The media.

MR. KEPPLER:  The role of the media in helping to empower women in your countries.

MS. DE LEON:  The media is supporting my work. My work is so hard and is very dangerous. I have had a lot of death threats. I have received a lot of death threats, and the media is supporting my work, because every day I am in the newspaper. I am working with people, and I there hearing. When I say "there" I am referring to the government--the president, the vice president, and all the members of the government, because I am disturbing--I am disturbing them, because every day I am denouncing the corruption actions, because every corruption, every act of corruption is closing the door of social and economic development to Guatemala. Every act of corruption is closing the door of education, especially to the girls, especially to the women. And there is a lack of employment opportunities, for example, and we are working so hard. But this work is supported by the press. Thank you.

MR. KEPPLER:  Questions? Please, doctor?

MS. CHUTIKUL:  Briefly, the media in Thailand still present women in a very stereotyped image--you know, fashion--that that fashion is not good--I am interested in it also, but too much of it, and all this stereotyping, gossiping and so on and so forth. On television and in the newspapers they still violate the children's and women's rights in the sense that when we work with the victims we don't want them to be shown in the papers or on the television. When we raided the brothels, the news would right away go to the women. And I said, no, no, no, let's look at the customers. Let's show all these men sitting around. (Applause.) And the newsmen, the photographer said, oh, that's boring. We'll do it anyway for you, but I know my editor will not put it in the paper. And sure enough in the morning it wasn't there.

So I think my apology to all the men in this room, but I think we need to balance the view within the media on gender. And some TV programs now is trying to have more intellectual, more stressed cognitive kind of program rather than emotional soap opera kind of programs. But they are beginning to, like presenting women in business, women lawyers, women judges and so on. But it's still very, very much needed, not enough. And they usually present of course the role of the pediatrician, how you raise your children and so on and so forth--which is fine. But they need to talk more about how to be a good father, not only a good mother. Thank you.

MR. KEPPLER:  This lady down in front I believe has a question.

Q:  Hi, my name is Durriya Ghadiali. I worked formerly on the President's Interagency Council for Women. And my question is for Arije. I was very impressed with the work your organization has done for so long, since 1959, and your remarkable success rate. And I was wondering if your organization has been able to lend its expertise or its experience to other organizations that may also want to copy your efforts in the Arab world for poorer Arab and Muslim countries. Have there been any initiatives such as that?

MS. AL-AMAD:  Thank you. Through the region we have exchanged experience with other microfinance. Jordan is a leader in microfinance in the whole region, but currently there is another program in Palestine, one in Lebanon, a small one in Egypt, and there is one in Morocco. Usually we exchange experience. We have something called--it's a study tool. On a yearly basis AMIRA (ph) program, funded by USAID, takes around four employees form the operation department from the whole microfinance institution, and they go study to other countries to exchange experiences.

MR. KEPPLER:  Yes, please?

Q:  My name is Sonnie Dockser, and I have been working with Vital Voices for the past couple of years. I have a question. One of the common threads that's run through each group of women that we have trained over the last couple of years is that women find it very difficult, as compared to men, to find a place to gather in the evenings, or places to meet in order to share ideas so that they can promote either candidates or work places or security areas for their children, and exchange common ideas. I'd be very curious to find out how you reach out within your countries to different groups of women so that they will be able to feel secure to meet with one another and to also exchange these ideas.

MS. AL-AMAD:  In Jordan we have many societies, especially women's society. This is one kind of area we can meet. Also, I believe we concentrate on the gender issue, but it's not only with the gender. Usually in the evening as families and friends, we can meet, we can discuss and share our experiences, our problems, our concerns, challenges we face, even in the works. There's many occasions we can. There is no need to have only one place for a woman to go to share our experiences. I think anywhere, in any place, you can talk with other women to share your experience. But, as I told you, there's many women associations. We can meet those associations. Thank you.

MR. KEPPLER:  Any other questions or comments? Please.

Q:  (Off mike)?

MS. DE LEON:  Okay. In Guatemala there are a lot of women associations, too, but I want to repeat that it's very difficult. It's a long process, because in Guatemala especially--I am not talking about the city, the capital--I am talking about the rural area, in the rural area, for example, in--(inaudible)--it's a rural area. It's very difficult, very clean and mountains, and very, very hard places. And the men are the bosses, the chiefs, and the women are behind. They are not speaking with anybody, because it's very difficult for them. And this is a culture pattern; this is necessary to change. And we are working. We are working because we are motivating women for participating, for speaking, because the culture of the silence--we are telling them the culture of the silence is finished, but it's a process.

In the city it is very common to see a lot of women speaking, participating in politics. But it is very difficult, because I told you eight women in the Congress. We are a few--group--and we are not joined because, for example, I am following all the time my principles and my values, not the orders of my party, for example, the principles and values. And I have issues with women, and I am a real representative of them, and I am very proud of representing them. But it is very difficult, but we are working, and we are working in the rural area. I am going every weekend to talk with them, to say that they have constitutional rights, and they have the right of defending them.

MR. KEPPLER:  Congresswoman Morella?

MS. MORELLA:  I wanted to thank you. I think you have just done a superlative job of relaying to us a lot of the work that you are doing and your needs and you are real fighters. But I wanted to ask, speaking of communication, is there access to technology? Can women go to a place where they can use a computer? Can they use e-mail? It would help with your microenterprise, obviously, in terms of marketing, but I'm curious in terms of communication whether you have access to technology, and to what degree.

MS. AL-AMAD:  In Jordan we have access, especially in our organization we have Oracle system law tracking, which is the highest technology for data. And now all the institutions, all the organizations, even King Abdullah has initiated that each governmental organization should have computer systems, and they start to teach all the employees that--even the kids in the schools from kindergarten they start to have computers--in houses. We are on top of technology.

MS. MORELLA:  You use it then in your work particularly, don't you?

MS. AL-AMAD:  Yes, of course.

MS. MORELLA:  I mean in microcredit.

MS. AL-AMAD:  In my organization each staff has each a personal computer.

MS. DE LEON:  In Guatemala NGOs and the institutions of the state have computers, and we have technology. But as she said, every student has a personal computer. I understood that. But I want to say in zone 18 of Guatemala City the students are writing on the floor, and they don't have desks. The desks, the few desks that they have, are from 20 or 28 years ago. And this is our reality. And I am not lying. This is my cruel reality.

But we have a combination because you--in Guatemala you can meet a very, very expensive computer center in an organization, but you have--you must go near it, and you are going to see that they don't have anything.

MS. CHUTIKUL:  I think in Thailand we are beginning to use a lot more of this technology. Two problems. One, it's still very expensive, and so the government is working on a project selling personal computers at about $250 apiece with necessary software and so on. And then the second problem is that the differences between the rich and the poor and the rural and the urban, you know the divide, the gap is still there very much so. So we have to work on that still. But women and men have no differences in terms of the aptitude and the interests. They like very much to be a part of this new modern living, using everything, push-button, things like that. But still we have to work on it.

MR. KEPPLER:  Thank you. With much regret, I am afraid I'm going to have to close the program. There's another event that's supposed to come in here at 12 o'clock. But I think you would all agree with me that this morning's presentation by our distinguished guests and panelists--not only were their presentations inspiring, but I think we continue to be inspired by their courage, by their commitment, and everything that they're doing to advance human rights and human justice, and I think we should all commend them for their efforts and encourage them to continue. (Applause.)

To Ms. Al-Amad, to Congressman de Leon, to Dr. Chutikul, I want to congratulate you again for being selected for your honors that you will receive tonight at the Kennedy Center. May you and your family enjoy your time here. You deserve a well-deserved break and some enjoyment before you go back and tackle the issues that you have so courageously addressed to the advantage of many, many people.

I want to thank again Deputy Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Cheney and Congresswoman Connie Morella for their time and for their support and continuing efforts along these lines, and to commend Theresa Loar and her organization. Carry the good fight forward. We are very proud of you. You do great work. And, as you can see, you do inspire a lot of people.

Today's program, there will be a transcript posted on the Open Forum website hopefully within 5 to 7 days. And with the permission of our guest panelists, if they agree I am going to put down their e-mail addresses, so if you want to continue your dialogue, if you have any follow-up questions if you have any ideas, you will be able to continue to communicate with them in that mode.

Before we close, I would just like to say next Thursday we have Dr. Marina Ottaway from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who will be talking about the challenges and the unintended consequences of trying to bring democracy to authoritarian African nations. On June 2 we have Dr. Jim Zogby. He is the President of the Arab American Institute. He'll be coming to talk about American politics and policies--the view from the Arab street. On June 16th, we are going to have a program called "Islam and Democracy: The Challenges and Consequences of Bringing Democracy to Islamic Nations," and some of the risks. And then on July 3 we are going to have a former State Department colleague, Mr. Aaron Miller, who worked with Dennis Ross for many, many years--worked very hard and very dedicated to try to bring peace to the Palestinian and the Israeli people. He is now with an organization called Seeds of Peace, and he has some ideas of someone who has served in the trenches, alternative ways and considerations for bringing peace.

I thank you all for coming here today. I look forward to seeing you here again. And thanks again to our distinguished guests. (Applause.)

Released on June 2, 2003

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.