Good morning, everybody. I’m Melanne Verveer, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women Issues, and I want to welcome each and every one of you. (Applause.) A very special welcome here to the State Department and a very special welcome to Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon, and Reese Witherspoon, from whom you will hear later this morning.
You have all come together to respond to a critical global challenge, and that is how to more effectively combat the pandemic of violence against women and girls. Gender-based violence is first and foremost a human rights issue. When she was First Lady of the United States and keynoted the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing 15 years ago this year, then First Lady Hillary Clinton said, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.” She recited a litany of abuses against women, from domestic violence to child marriage, from human trafficking to rape being used as a tool of war. And she underscored that each and every one of those abuses is a violation of human rights.
Gender-based violence is also a health issue, it is an economic issue, it is a security issue. To say it differently, it exacerbates the rate of HIV/AIDS infection, it decreases the productivity of our country’s economy and other countries’ economies, and it can destabilize communities. No country is immune from this scourge. We wish you much success as you develop strategies and explore best practices. And among you, I know are experts from all over the world: people like the judge of the only trafficking court in Mumbai, India; the founder of one of the first counseling centers in China; the chief of prosecution in Egypt who works on domestic violence; the chief prosecutor of the sex crimes unit of the Ministry of Justice in Liberia; the founder of the first organization in Russia to offer a crisis hotline and counseling services; and so many more of you.
Again, I want to welcome you. I want to wish you a very, very productive session, because it is critically important that we all work together to end the scourge of violence against women and girls once and for all. Thank you very much. (Applause.)