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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Grace Under Fire Film Screening

Eric P. Schwartz
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Washington, DC
June 2, 2010


Assistant Secretary Eric P. Schwartz
Grace Under Fire Film Screening
June 2, 2010 1:00PM
U.S. Department of State

Thank you for joining us for the screening of the documentary film, Grace Under Fire. It is a great honor to have the star of the film, Dr. Grace Kodindo, with us today, as well as all of you. I want to recognize the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and all of the organizations that participate in the Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services (RAISE) Initiative led by Columbia University and Marie Stopes International, for making the production and screening of this film possible.

The film highlights a wide range of reproductive health challenges that prevail in crisis settings, including the unmet need for family planning; shocking levels of maternal death and disability; widespread sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and a lack of services for survivors of sexual violence.

All of these are devastating symptoms of widespread and continued gender inequality.

Date: 06/17/2010 Description: Dr. Grace Kodindo meets with Yvonne Salama, a young rape survivor in the DRC whose courageous participation in the Grace Under Fire production provides a personal story of perseverance and survival.  © Photo courtesy of the RAISE Initiative

Dr. Grace Kodindo meets with Yvonne Salama, a young rape survivor in the DRC whose courageous participation in
the Grace Under Fire production provides a personal story of perseverance and survival.
Photo courtesy of the RAISE Initiative

For far too many women and girls, violence, insecurity and discrimination are daily realities. There are plenty of examples of negative trends, from the reemergence of the Taliban's stranglehold on women's autonomy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the unabated use of rape as a weapon of war in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Most recently, the tragic earthquake in Haiti made the long-standing vulnerabilities of women and girls in that country all the more stark.

But there are also stories of hope and courage, which you’ll hear today from people working on the frontlines of places like these, including Dr. Grace Kodindo, whose energy and commitment are a source of inspiration to us all.

And throughout the world, there are men and boys who are standing in solidarity with their sisters, mothers and wives, and recognizing, as Secretary Clinton has long said, that women’s rights are human rights.

The Obama administration has made clear its commitment to promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls. For our Bureau, this means continuing our efforts to mainstream gender issues into our programming in humanitarian settings and in our institutional relationships with UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners. We will seek to enhance our work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, including violence directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We will continue to assess the impact on and inclusion of women and girls in every program and project we fund. And we will work to ensure the participation of displaced women and girls in peace building initiatives and other political and security processes.

The link between reproductive health and rights and the empowerment of women and girls is clear. When women and girls are free from sexual coercion and violence, and when they can make informed choices about the number, timing and spacing of their children, they are better able to participate fully in the social, political, and economic life of their communities. The landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994 produced a critical global consensus on these issues, when 179 nations affirmed the important connection between women’s reproductive health and rights, and sustainable development and global health.

Through the dedicated and inspiring work of so many of you here, the goals we set at Cairo are within reach. But as the film demonstrates powerfully, millions of women and girls, as well as men and boys, remain disempowered because they are unable to access vital services and information.

Achieving the goals outlined at Cairo is central to our foreign policy and foreign assistance programming. Our Bureau recently convened officials in our government to examine how the U.S. delivers reproductive health care services and commodities in conflict settings. We are looking for gaps in programming, areas for improved service delivery, and ways to ensure our efforts focus on the areas of greatest need. We are also communicating clearly within the U.S. government and with our multilateral partners that reproductive health care must be a frontline priority in complex emergency settings, and should be planned for and implemented along with other life-saving interventions in emergencies, such water and sanitation, shelter, and nutrition.

I look forward to continued consultation with the many stakeholders here and in the field as we work together to foster broad and enduring support for promoting reproductive health and rights, and empowering women and girls.


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