Ambassador Verveer: Thank you for coming out this afternoon and I hope you haven’t had to wait too long. I’m very happy to see you and to take any questions, and to have a discussion. My portfolio is a new position in the Obama administration. This ambassadorship did not exist before, but President Obama and Secretary Clinton recognize that in today’s world, within our countries, between our countries, working as our foreign ministry does, as every foreign ministry does around the world, that we can’t hope to tackle the challenges that we confront in the world, whether they have to do with economics, with security, with the environment, with how we govern ourselves, unless women are fully participating at every level of society.
My job is really to integrate the issues as they affect women…putting them into the equation, whether it has to do with our department that deals with economics or departments that deal with different parts of the world or with human rights. Because in addressing the issues of those departments, having a lens on women’s issues really will create more effective outcomes. It is really predicated on the simple fact that no country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind, if it leaves the women behind.
I come back to Egypt, a country I love to come to—where I’ve come to know so many extraordinary people, at a time of historic moment in your country. The events that unfolded on January 25th captivated not just everyone in the United States, but everyone around the world, and obviously it has created an influence that continues every day in this region. Just hearing Egyptians, men and women—of all ages, of all sectors in society, and from different backgrounds—come together as one Egypt, talking about their aspirations for a new Egypt for themselves, for freedom, for economic opportunity, has been more inspiring than I can describe. There is so much interest in our country, from people in government, outside of government, who want to know how they can be helpful, particularly women, because they come to me and they say, “How can we help our Egyptian sisters now? They are on the threshold of something extraordinary, but it will be a difficult transition.”
I have been here for the last several days to listen, to really understand how things are moving forward and hopefully to be able to use my voice to echo what the women here have been telling me. I have had the privilege over the last several days to meet with civil society leaders, to meet with many of those active participants on Tahrir Square, both the young and those who’ve been pioneers for women’s progress, often struggling very hard to achieve some of the laws that have been achieved. I have met with dynamic women who are running small and medium-sized businesses, because it’s clear women have to be a part of economic solutions; they have to be participants in the economic growth of this country. What is going to be done to ensure that they can overcome barriers so that their potential to grow GDP can be unleashed? And I’ve also met with women in the poorer sections of town who are struggling with some tough issues—dealing with violence, dealing with child marriage, [human] trafficking—to see how they are becoming empowered and really taking control of their lives and contributing to a better future for their families.
I’m nearing the end of my visit here. I only have a couple more meetings before I fly out tomorrow morning, but I’m pleased to be able to have some time here now to be able to talk to you…to be able to hear your questions, and to be able to talk some more about my experiences here.