FBiH Women’s Caucus Conference about Economic and Political Empowerment of Women

BiH Parliamentary Assembly (Blue Room)
Ambassador Maureen Cormack

I am very happy to be here today.   This is my first official event with the Federation Women’s Caucus, but I first heard about your good work from Senator Jeanne Shaheen  and her chief of staff, Maura Keefe, who very much appreciate having been your partners in launching the Caucus.

Thank you to the International Republican Institute, the Women’s Caucus of the House of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also the Foreign Policy Initiatives for inviting me to speak here today.

I am also honored to welcome participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania and Montenegro.  I commend the International Republican Institute and Foreign Policy Initiatives on their extraordinary efforts in partnering with women across the region to help them grow as leaders, to build networks of young women politicians, civil society activists, academics, and media specialists, and to strengthen the role of women in decision-making across a range of fields.  I hope that this conference will be a unique opportunity for women in BiH to exchange lessons and experiences with colleagues, and to empower one another to continue the struggle for equal position and equal influence in society.  The 21st Century needs more women in charge.

This year marks the 16th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, on women, peace, and security.  We have seen progress around the world during these  years , but not nearly enough.  Only 11 elected heads of state are women; only one in five parliamentarians are women.  Since 1992,  women have represented fewer than three percent of mediators and eight percent  of negotiators in major peace negotiations.  These numbers are too small — more women need to be in the room where big decisions are being made.

Equal rights.  Equal participation.  Equal power.  That is what’s needed for development and the future prosperity of communities across the world. But we see the same problematic indicators for women globally:  low participation in politics, limited roles in business development and leadership, and inadequate responses to violence against women.  Yet, women have shown our capacity for political leadership at the highest levels in diverse countries and societies.  Women are in actuality equal or often greater contributors to national economies across the globe and are key drivers of the global economy; we need to be economic decision-makers too.  Where successful initiatives to fight violence against women have been established, it has been because women designed, advocated for, and implemented those projects.

Today I would like to emphasize that the ongoing struggle for women’s equality and leadership should capitalize on the powerful roles we already play in society.  Women are excellent networkers; we use these capabilities every day in a plethora of different ways, to the benefit of our families and society.

We need to focus now on leveraging women’s networks to achieve the leadership roles we don’t yet hold.  Get active in your local chamber of commerce, support women-owned businesses, mentor young female entrepreneurs.  Support  fund and help facilitate women running for office.  And don’t forget, when you are building that network of supporters, include men too. Politics, at its best, is about representing the needs and aspirations of citizens. Men need politicians who pursue policies that help them in their daily lives, just like women do.  But they need to understand  and we need  to articulate what advantages women candidates bring to the table, what communities are lacking because of the absence of women in decision making.

Global security is an important example of where women are needed. The role of women in global security is critical.  Whether in the armed forces, law enforcement, or security services, women in uniform are positive role models and help build trust between official institutions and the communities they serve.  In March of this year, General Lori Robinson was nominated to be the first woman to ever serve as a combatant commander in the U.S. Armed Forces. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she will be in charge of the United States Northern Command and NORAD.  Likewise, NATO forces in BiH have a female commander for the first time.  General Giselle Wilz has been a key partner for our Embassy  in promoting cooperation with the Alliance and pushing for needed defense reforms.

Breaking through glass ceilings, as General Robinson and General Wilz have done, is essential to women’s empowerment.  What these role models give us is a picture to share with anyone who doesn’t understand the importance of women’s leadership.  What would the world look like without women’s leadership?  It would be a world without the accomplishments and talents of General Robinson, of General Wilz, of three U.S. women who served as Secretary of State, of the 22 women leading Fortune 500 companies, of the 11 women leading countries, of the 262 women mayors leading U.S. cities,  and I would  add  our own  40 US  female Ambassadors, of the BiH Women’s Caucus gathered here today, and so many others making a difference in communities across the globe.

I think we can all be inspired by the passionate efforts that have been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina to empower women.  As I speak to people throughout the country, I am always amazed at how the women of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have survived so much, continue to show such determination to move forward and make things better for the next generation. You are the strength of this country, and you are its future.

Thank you for your time and for your efforts to improve the status of women in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Europe, and in the world.  Please use this conference to brainstorm new ideas, to build relationships that help you advance your goals, and to strengthen one another.

Hvala vam puno!