U.S. ambassador on women’s issues speaks at Elliott School

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Women’s participation in leadership and peacemaking is vital for a country’s survival, President Barack Obama’s Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues told an audience of students and women’s leaders at the Elliott School last Tuesday.

Obama created the position of ambassador to global women’s issues and appointed Melanne Verveer in April 2009. Verveer, speaking at the “Distinguished Women in International Affairs” series funded by donors Jack and Pam Cumming, said the Obama administration, especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are interested renewing the focus on women issues.

“Women’s role[s] are overlooked or dismissed as not important… we have to come together for the future of our children,” Verveer said.

Verveer said three resolutions adopted by the United Nations recognize the necessity to have women in peacemaking and in preventing sexual violence: Resolutions 1325, 1820, and 1888.

The resolutions note women’s perspectives and experiences are significant in creating peace, women have the right to participate in peacemaking and women are the “glue” that holds families and communities together.

“The fact that these resolutions were adopted is. a very positive sign,” Verveer said.

The African country of Rwanda is a model for women to follow, the ambassador continued.

“There are more women in the parliament in Rwanda than anywhere in the world,” Verveer said. “[The women] have been a crucial part in the rebuilding and peacemaking of their country, and they are moving forward.”

The ambassador thanked the women from the Organizing Committee of the North East Asian Women’s Peace Conference for fighting for freedom of equality on behalf of women.

“People tend to acknowledge that women’s equality is a topic that needs addressing,” said Verveer, calling it an “unfinished agenda.”

Verveer advised the students at the event to listen to the voices of women around the world and to let them be heard.

After all, “women hold up half the sky,” Verveer said.

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