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Remarks With Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Avon CEO Andrea Jung

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
After the Senior Roundtable for Women's Justice Outside the Loy Henderson Auditorium
Washington, DC
March 12, 2008

((3:05 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. I’d like just to take a moment to thank Justice O’Connor, my longtime friend and obviously an inspiration to not just women worldwide but to all of us, and also Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon Products. We’ve just participated in a senior roundtable on women’s empowerment and the topic today has been domestic violence and violence against women.

This is a part -- an outgrowth of work that I have been doing with a working group of women leaders around the world to raise awareness of issues concerning women, and there is nothing sadder in many ways than the violence that is done against women. And this is an opportunity with a very impressive group of women -- justices, chief justices, lawyers, scholars in this room from around the world -- 17 different countries who are represented here who are sharing best practices and ideas about how women can get access to justice. This is to look at the entire range of justice -- impediments to justice for women around the world. But I think this has been a particularly poignant session as we’ve talked about the challenges that face women concerning violence.

Do you want to say a word?

JUSTICE O’CONNOR: Yes. I’m really glad that the State Department took such an interest and assembled the group because domestic violence is a problem we see in every country, this one and around the world, and the statistics are serious. But there are things that can be done to reduce it, and we’ve discovered some here and are trying to apply them, and we need to work on it wherever it exists. And I’m really encouraged that there is a problem we can address and there are some solutions, and I’m glad that our State Department is trying to lead the way and that Avon has made some funding available around the globe to address this problem, which is very important because when women suffer from abuse, they often don’t have the economic means to survive themselves and with their children to take the steps they have to take. So this is where we need to work, and I’m glad we are. It looked like a good group.

SECRETARY RICE: Andrea, did you want to say a word?

MS. JUNG: We’re thrilled to be here at the State Department today and participate in this great dialogue. I think it is a great moment and reflection point for this agenda, and I think personally we representing the private sector and the way we can bring the weight and the resources of public corporations today and partner with policy shapers and governments to really improve (inaudible) for women, particularly ending violence, which has been, I think, a common cause for the three of us and a belief on the part of the three of us that, again, if we join the public and private sector that we can make, in fact, some great progress along these roads. The statistics are still pretty staggering: One in three women will be a victim of domestic violence around the world. It’s an issue in developed nations as well as developing and emerging nations; it is a worldwide issue. And I think, though, collective efforts can really make a great opportunity to move this forward for the next several years.


QUESTION: Slightly related question.

SECRETARY RICE: Only slightly? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: As you talk to other leaders in other countries, women in other countries, are you getting many questions about the U.S. election this year, the first time that there is really a viable national woman candidate? Many of these countries, even those that have the same kinds of problems -- domestic violence -- we have elected women as -- or chosen in some fashion women as head of their states. Are you hearing much about that, or what’s your --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think people are genuinely interested in American politics and interested in the firsts that are being exhibited here. But I think you -- it’s also important to realize that the women in this room and women like them around the world, I think first and foremost, feel their strong responsibility to try to do something in their own countries to deal with persistent problems that women face. Even when you have women leaders and strong women in judiciaries and the like, you’ll find that there are still impediments to women getting access to justice. Andrea was just in her remarks talking about how in some parts of the developing world just getting to a place where you can get to a court or get to a lawyer is really, really hard. And so yes, people are fascinating with American politics, but frankly, I think they’re also pretty concerned about their own problems.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR: They’re more concerned with their broken arm.


QUESTION: Andrea, I have a question for you. I mean, as a company that tries to empower women to feel good about themselves, to take care of themselves and look beautiful, do you see some kind of hypocrisy in the way that people objectify women and their beauty, but don’t try to take care of women’s human rights and –

MS. JUNG: The (inaudible) founding (inaudible) of our company was to give women economic empowerment before they could vote. We have 5.4 million independent sellers and they come to us, first and foremost, because we teach them how to run their own businesses and give them a micro-loan, if you would, to start up. And for most of the nations, this – you know, Avon goes in and partners with governments to give women who are just rising into the need to be able to be independent economically their first jobs. And while they’re not employed, we teach them how to be economically independent, and we have definitely seen a direct link between economic independence and the ability to speak out and to come forward if there is abuse. And so that financial security does give women the opportunity and the confidence to come forward. That’s very –

QUESTION: One more question. Why is China not one of the most – the worst violators of human rights anymore?

SECRETARY RICE: You mean in terms of the report?


SECRETARY RICE: Look, I think if you read the report on China, it is quite harsh and properly so about human rights problems with China. As you know, we’ve just gotten China to renew the – or to begin again the human rights dialogue that had been in limbo for some time. I – the only purpose here was to call out that there are some countries that are so close to the Burmas of the world that you have a different kind of problem when you have a country that is, in many ways, completely closed off to the world. But it is by no means to suggest that they are not significant and persistent human rights problems in China.

Last one, Janine.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, Admiral Fallon’s abrupt resignation yesterday has fed speculation that there might be a shift in policy towards Iran, even though his positions were not that different from your own. Vice President Cheney going to the Middle East next week. People are twinning these two things.

SECRETARY RICE: Janine, Secretary Gates and Admiral Fallon himself have spoken to his decision to step down. Admiral Fallon is -- has been a great public servant. He has served this country well. I personally have enjoyed working with him.

As to the policy, I think you know that the President has made very clear that the United States believes that a diplomatic solution to the Iran issue is possible, if the world stays strong and reacts in a unified way. And in that regard, the recent passage of the UN Security Council resolution, the third such resolution, is an important signal to Iran that it is Iran that is isolated and it is our intention to continue this course.

Thank you.

Released on March 12, 2008

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