Ambassador Jacobson speaks at the international summit themed “Partnership for Change: Empowering Women"
6-8 October, 2012
Madam President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am honored to be here with you to discuss the path to gender equality. Not just in Kosovo, but throughout the region and the world. Madam President, thank you for your leadership in everything you do in Kosovo, and for the fantastic job you do representing Kosovo on the international stage, but especially thank you for convening this summit. The U.S. government is proud to partner with you in this effort. Today we stand united by the shared conviction that together we can empower women and help shape a society in which all citizens share an equal voice. This summit highlights several key policy priorities where the government of the U.S. is partnering with Kosovo:
- Promoting inclusive private-sector-led economic development;
- Ensuring that Kosovo’s society and government are firmly rooted in the rule of law;
- Supporting the institutions necessary for a strong democratic society;
- And working with our European partners to realize Kosovo’s Euro-Atlantic future.
Gender equality is essential to the success of all of these objectives. As Secretary Clinton, Secretary Albright and Ambassador Verveer have repeatedly stated, no country can get ahead if half of its citizens are left behind. Women and girls are one of the world’s greatest untapped resources, and investing in them and in their future can generate a powerful force for positive and lasting change. Promoting gender equality is not simply the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Now women around the world as we know face daunting challenges. Half of the world’s population lives on less than 2 euros a day, and the majority of those are women. Women do 66 percent of the world’s work, for five percent of the pay. Now that’s not right. And I’m looking at the statistic and I’m thinking it does not even count the work that women do at home.
Despite progress in education, two-thirds of unschooled children are girls, and 75 percent of illiterate adults are women. Women and girls suffer disproportionately from unequal access to health care and for access to treatment. And violence against women is a global problem. When we consider these statistics, they can be discouraging. But there are also positive examples and models for success.
In Kosovo, the United States and many other countries represented here today, are conducting programs specifically designed to support women and girls. We are providing grants to support women in economic empowerment, education, combating violence, participation in politics, and even sports. We are helping Kosovo to fight trafficking and to support victims of violence.
We are working with female entrepreneurs all over Kosovo, providing training to women-owned businesses, and supporting their initiatives. One good example is USAID's work with the farming community of Krusha e Madhe.
In Krusha e Madhe USAID worked with five widows to help them form a farming collective, provide vegetable storage and processing equipment, and marketing training.
The region is known for its high quality peppers, so these women learned how to cultivate peppers and how to produce products made from peppers, to include pickles and the dangerously addictive condiment known as ajvar. Twenty-five women now in Krusha e Madhe are producing 70 metric tons of products made from peppers every year. And rightly so, the director of the cooperative, Ola Syla, is here today to share her experience and her ideas.
Working together, this project did not just empower 25 women, it empowered an entire community. And this is a pivotal point that cannot be overlooked: women’s empowerment is not a single-gender issue. It is a joint-responsibility, and one that can help entire communities prosper.
On the political stage, we have seen that engaging women can help make government institutions more representative and more effective. Women bring a unique perspective to decision-making in peace and security. To end conflict or to prevent conflict. It turns out that we are good at collaborating, communicating, and consensus-building. And these are the skills that we need in the 21st century.
Now Kosovo has strong laws to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. And in this respect, Kosovo is ahead of many other countries. Women are visible at the highest level of Kosovo politics, including the president, national assembly, key ministers, so it is fitting that Kosovo would take the lead to work on advancing these issues in this region. And I would like to add that we believe women should be represented in leadership roles in all structures, in the government, and in the parliament, and not just at the national level, but at the local level too.
I was fortunate to grow up in a society where the government offered women many possibilities. But even I can remember experiencing discrimination early in my career, when on my first job in the Foreign Service my crusty old boss called us all in and said the ideal diplomat is “young, single, and male.” We’ve come a long way since then, and I’m proud to say we even managed to change that particular boss’ mind, and he was one of the first to congratulate me when I became the United States’ youngest Ambassador.
The progress we have made is thanks to the courage and determination of women – as well as men – who have been prepared to fight this battle. We must be equally courageous and determined. And today, we should all recommit ourselves to providing that mentoring and support to the next generation that is coming up through the ranks.
Everyone here has found a way to succeed despite challenges and I’m sure that you, like me, have had people in your lives that have inspired you. So let’s be that inspiration for the next generation of girls and boys, of women and men. And feeling the energy that I have felt since this conference has started, with so many great people, I am confident that together, we can move forward to a place in which all people are able to realize their full potential, and the full potential of our global society. Thank you all very much.