Vice President Kamala Harris opens UN Summit on Gender Equality: “Our world is stronger when everyone participates”
âHere’s the truth,â Harris said. âDemocracy is stronger when everyone is participating and it is weaker when people are left behind. “
Vice President Kamala Harris led the virtual U.S. delegation in a speech at the opening ceremony of the UN Generation Equality Forum on Wednesday. Its main message: Gender equality is essential for a legitimate and strong democracy.
âAt the G7 summit just a few weeks ago, world leaders pledged to unite against the threat of autocracy. World leaders are committed to unite behind the principles of democracy, âshe said.
Harris painted a picture of âdemocracy in jeopardyâ around the world: a sharp increase in human rights violations, widespread disinformation undermining public trust, strongmen gaining more power, and growing corruption. As the world finds itself in the second year of COVID-19, the gendered impacts of the pandemic and the decline in democracy are apparent on a global scale.
Harris pointed out that when democracies falter and fail, women and girls suffer the most. âI believe, like all of you, that addressing gender equity and equality is essential to address all the other challenges we face,â she said.
The Vice President expressed pride that the United States has re-committed to “making gender equality a reality” by joining 188 other nations in adopting a platform for concrete action. She said the United States will make a number of commitments, promising tangible results to improve the lives of women in the United States and around the world.
Harris acknowledged the lessons learned in the United States on gender equality that the country still strives to implement: âWhen women have access to capitalâ¦ they can participate more fully and our democracy is strengthened. When women have access to reproductive health care to stay healthy, they can participate more fully and our democracy is strengthened. When women live free from the fear of violence, they can participate more fully and our democracy is strengthened. “
In concluding his remarks, Harris spoke directly to the young leaders featured on the panels during the program. âListen to these people who are not being heard,â she urged. âRespect and embrace those whose experiences are different from yours. Recognize who is not in the room and invite them to come in. And don’t forget the importance of your own story.
She concluded on a simple and concise note, well received by the participants of the Generation Equality Forum: âOur world is stronger when everyone participates.
Below is the Vice President’s full speech:
Twenty-six years ago, government and civil society leaders from around the world gathered in a forum similar to this one. In Beijing in 1995, Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to the world and the United States became one of 189 countries to adopt the ambitious âPlatform for Actionâ. These are points of deep pride for our nation.
And for me, it’s an honor to be here with you now, as we make a renewed commitment to making gender equality a reality.
Over the past five months, I have met many world leaders and we have discussed some of the most pressing issues of our time: COVID-19, climate change, security threats and threats to democracy.
And in these meetings, I have often stressed the importance of the equal participation of women and girls, because I believe, like all of you, that addressing gender equity and equality is essential to all the other challenges we face, which is certainly true in light of the current threats to democracy.
All over the world, democracy is in jeopardy. Strong men have become stronger. Human rights abuses have increased. Corruption undermines progress because disinformation undermines public confidence.
And who is hurt when democracies fall, when democracies falter? Who is hurt when democracies fail to keep their promises? Well, women and girls are among those who suffer.
At the G7 summit just a few weeks ago, world leaders pledged to unite against the threat of autocracy. World leaders pledged to unite behind the principles of democracy. And as we move forward, I think if we are to strengthen democracy, we have to fight for gender equality.
Because here is the truth: Democracy is stronger when everyone participates, and it is weaker when people are left out. And we’ve seen it here in the United States.
When women have access to capital to start a small business, they can participate more fully and our democracy is strengthened.
When women have access to reproductive health care to stay healthy, they can participate more fully and our democracy is strengthened.
When women live free from the fear of violence, they can participate more fully and our democracy is strengthened.
Throughout my career, I have worked to protect women from violence and exploitation. I know what happens when women are supported. I know what happens when women are heard. When women are heard, whether in the courtroom, in the workplace, in government corridors or at the ballot box, democracy is more complete.
So I know without a doubt that gender equality strengthens democracy. And, for its part, the United States will today make a number of commitments to strengthen our own institutions. And these commitments have one thing in common: They will produce results – real, tangible results – that will improve the lives of women in the United States and women around the world.
So, in closing, I address the young leaders who participate in Generation Equality: I remain full of hope and optimism thanks to you. Our world needs your leadership. And in this role, there are two things I want you to remember.
First, don’t forget to use the tools of democracy, be it freedom of speech or freedom to vote. And if you don’t have these freedoms yet, fight for them and know that we will fight by your side.
And the second thing I want you to remember is this: listen to those people who are not being heard. Respect and embrace those whose experiences are different from yours, recognize those who are not in the room, and invite them in. And don’t forget the power of your own story.
When we bring in people – when we bring in everyone – we are more successful, our results have more impact because democracy is stronger, because our world is stronger when everyone participates.
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