I assure you if I didn’t have to be at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of women, I’d be in Haiti with all of you! I will look forward to coming sometime in the weeks ahead and learning about the progress that you are making in implementing the National Women’s Platform.
The initiative you have undertaken is an important one, and I’m confident it will make a positive difference in the months to come. You know well that no country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind, if it fails to tap the potential, experience, talents and vision of its women. You also know that when women progress, all of society progresses. This is certainly true in Haiti and it is why you are investing in Haitian women’s leadership.
Haiti has done much to rebuild since the devastating earthquake yet no one knows better than you how very far you have yet to go. What I know for certain Is that women must play a central role in that process. Not because it’s the right thing to do---as much as that is so, but because it is also the smart, strategic thing to do if Haiti is to comeback better and stronger.
I remember so well the Haitian delegation to the Vital Voices conference in 1998. It seemed like just a couple months later when then First Lady Clinton arrived in Port au Prince and Danielle and her colleagues were so eager to meet with her and tell her about the creation of Femmes en Democratie. You were women with vision and commitment then and you still are.
I remember too how worried we were about all of you when we learned about the earthquake and how relieved we were when the first email came from Danielle that she was alive. Her second line in the email was a promise that Haiti would rise up from the ashes. I think she like so many of you kept body and soul together in those days by planning for the rebuilding, as she and you were still struggling to cope with the aftermath.
All around the world I have seen first-hand those vital voices --- the not so ordinary women doing extraordinary things, often out of the limelight but leading on the frontlines of change. It is also no surprise to see your global friends – vital voices all -- gathered with you in a network of support as you commit to your policy priorities.
I want to salute you for your participation in this initiative, for sharing your concerns and y our ideas --- women from Jacmel and Gonaives. From Cap Heitien to Port au Prince. Your collective voices from government, the private sector and civil society will contribute to change in your communities and your country. I also want to thank UN Women, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti and the Norwegian Embassy for your strong support for the initiative and to the Bank of America and Vital Voices for their leadership in launching the Global Ambassador’s program. This is truly a common cause.
Your focus on building leadership is sorely needed. Women comprise only three percent of Haiti’s Parliament. Women continue to struggle to be included in the Reconstruction efforts. Women face significant social and economic challenges like maternal and child health care which is so critical for the survival of mothers and their families. I wish you well in the implementation of your Policy Platform – whether it’s boosting economic opportunity and political participation – or fighting for roads and sanitation. You will feel that “beyond the mountains, there are only more mountains.” But I know that you are up to the journey that you are embarking on despite the mountains.
The women of Haiti, time and again, have demonstrated strength, resilience and principled action in fighting injustice, corruption and violence. You are the change that you want to see in your communities and country.
We will be with you on your journey and we wish you Godspeed.