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

Remarks to Women Leaders Working Group

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Brussels, Belgium
March 6, 2008

View Video

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, and thanks very much, Benita, for organizing this wonderful effort. I apologize for being late and leaving early. It’s a terrible thing because I very much would love to have heard the entire discussion. But I’ve been getting a good readout on your discussions. We have indeed been at NATO, but I’ve been very much looking forward to having a chance to just share a few thoughts with you.

I see many friends around the table. We’ve been at a number of meetings and conferences together. I see women with extraordinary responsibilities, and I just want to thank each and every one of you for not just what you’re doing here in sharing views and ideas and ways forward, but also for what you do every day. I am very glad that this Women Leaders Working Group, which is a critical initiative, is again meeting.

A key factor affecting security today is globalization, and I think we all know that. The rapid movement of information, capital, technology and people is transforming the security landscape of the world. We live in an age where new security threats can easily be exported from one nation to another, and that can happen sometimes in the blink of an eye.

The inclusion of women in this globalization process has never been more crucial. On the positive side, globalization is empowering those who can seize its benefits. In countries like India, for example, woman are making great strides in joining the global economy, and their growing opportunity is contributing to the rising power of their nation. In other places, women are pushing hard to make the political process inclusive. In Kuwait, for example, women who worked hard for decades finally won the right to vote as equal citizens. And one of the proudest moments that I’ve had as Secretary is when those women in Kuwait sent a t-shirt to me, and it said, “Half a democracy is not a democracy at all.” I think that’s a wonderful slogan for all of us to put forward.

On the negative side, however, where states do not or can not ensure that their people have an opportunity to benefit from globalization, the results are troubling and often the victims are women. Many states are falling behind and even failing, and when they do, they create holes in the fabric of the international system where terrorists can arm the innocent -- arm and train to kill the innocent; where criminal networks traffic in drugs and where criminal networks traffic in people, again, very often, women and girls, who are taken to terrible lives through this trafficking; and where regional conflict can destabilize the entire international system.

The rights, opportunity and well-being of women are also directly related to the capacity of states. Poverty is more rampant when women lack education and economic opportunity. Justice is thwarted when women are denied the right to play a political role in their nations. Disease flourishes and spreads when women’s perspectives are not taken into account in terms of disease prevention and treatment. And in today’s modern world, no country can achieve lasting success and stability and security if half of its population is sitting on the sidelines.

Women are particularly impacted by consequences arising from a state’s inability to govern. When governments are unable to properly police, it is inevitable that violence and rape and other atrocities will be committed against women with impunity. Where criminal networks have de facto control, women are susceptible to human trafficking. And the particular vulnerabilities faced by women in civil conflicts are tragically well known by all of us.

We in the international community should make sure that we hear the voices of women and account for their concerns whenever we seek to establish or to keep the peace. If we do that, we are actually making the job of keeping the peace easier.

And that is the work that we are helping to lead under the auspices of the Women Leaders Working Group and other dialogues among senior women worldwide. The United States, for example, is working with an NGO in Pakistan to establish a teacher development center to help teachers offer critical math and science curriculum to girls and boys in Pakistan.

Next week, I will be proud to present the second annual Secretary’s Award for International Women of Courage to eight women from around the world. This award is a part of a program that recognizes the leadership and the courage of emerging women leaders and engages them in a week of meetings and discussions with U.S. Government officials as well as NGO representatives in Washington and New York.

And on March 12th in Washington, D.C., the United States will bring together judges from around the world to develop an action plan to address the challenges that women face in accessing justice and legal institutions, especially when it comes to the persistent problems of violence against women.

I hope that this network that we’re building through meetings like this one will continue to generate new types of programmatic activities in each and every one of our countries. I hope as well that we can continue to translate our experience, our own experiences, into practical ideas and action to support women’s empowerment. This should be a specific part of the work agenda for all of our ministries. I look forward to a productive exchange of ideas not just today, but throughout the year and in the future.

And I just want to close with a point of personal privilege, which is to say that I think if each and every one of us thinks back, we know that we would not be where we are today had there not been those who intervened on our behalf; had we not had those who told us that yes, we were women, but no one could tell us that we could not achieve; had we not had either mothers or teachers or grandmothers or maybe they were fathers or brothers who told us that our horizons were limitless, even though we were women; and we would not be here were it not for the intervention of someone who cared.

I hope that through the Women’s Empowerment Network and through meetings like these and activities, that we can make sure that somehow, someway, for hopefully every girl out there in the world, there will be somebody who can intervene. It can be through teaching teachers who will then intervene with individual girls. It can be through empowering women business leaders and entrepreneurs who will reach their villages and their towns and reach girls. It can be through mentoring and through holding up the examples of women of courage.

But I hope that as perhaps optimistic as it sounds and as idealistic as it sounds, that we will take as our charge that there should be no girl with capability and with gifts who will not have an opportunity to break out of circumstances and to realize that it does not matter where you came from; it matters where you’re going. Thank you.


Released on March 6, 2008

  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.