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Remarks at the "One Woman Initiative" Fund for Women's Empowerment

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 12, 2008

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Thank you very much. Let me first thank Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, without whom none of this work would be done. She is my Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment, and you’re doing a very fine job.

I’d also like to thank the co-chairs for this event, who are joining us – Carly Fiorina, Sheila Johnson, and Farooq Kathwari. Thank you very much for being here. And thanks to each and every one of you for joining us today and for all that you are doing to help empower women worldwide.

It is a pleasure to be here to talk about the One Woman Initiative – a public-private partnership that will establish a women’s empowerment fund for justice, leadership, and opportunity.

Empowering women must be a fundamental component of any relevant and effective foreign policy in today’s world. As Goethe is credited with saying, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."

Women are increasingly being given access to more opportunities than ever before. It is critical, however, that we remember that this work is, by no means, done. In an age where women are climbing to new heights, we must pause for a moment and direct our concerns toward those who have been left behind.

Indeed, it is a dark time for the women and girls who have been overlooked in our rapidly changing global environment – those who have been denied the opportunity to go to school, to read, or to use a computer, those who do not have a legal identity, legal rights or even the right to vote. These are the women in the shadows, often with little voice in their societies, and we must respond to their needs and help them to unlock their own potential.

So often, it takes only one woman to make a difference. If you empower that woman with information, and training, or a microloan, she can lift up her entire family and contribute to the success of her community. Multiply that one woman’s impact by a hundred or a thousand, and perhaps a million lives can change.

That is what the One Woman Initiative is all about. Ironically, such a hopeful idea was actually born of tragedy – from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last December, just prior to the elections in Pakistan. We recognized the impact that one moderate woman had in a major Muslim country, and it inspired us to help nurture others who could become forces for moderation and peaceful change.

Once established, this joint public-private partnership will support existing initiatives in countries with large Muslim populations and will focus on key empowerment initiatives including entrepreneurship, political leadership, and the rule of law. These priorities were set by the Women Leaders’ Working Group – a partnership launched by the United States, comprised of senior women in governments worldwide. Their goal is to ensure that women’s empowerment is highlighted on our combined international agenda.

Through a joint effort by the U.S. Government and a dynamic group of corporate partners, we are devoting nearly $100 million to empower women where they are most needed as committed partners.

Across this globe, we see signs of women standing up for freedom, standing up for justice and demanding opportunity. And I am proud of the work the United States is doing to support them. I am equally proud of our corporate partners for their initiative to empower, educate and inspire women across the globe. We know that it is only by working together that we can ultimately effect change for women around the world.

So thank you all for coming, and thank each and every one of you for taking the pledge today to do whatever you can to empower women worldwide so that we might empower prosperity, democracy and peace. Thank you. (Applause.)


Released on May 12, 2008

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