Distinguished guests, Fellow Delegates:
On behalf of the City of Atlanta, I am pleased and honored to welcome you to our great city and to host this inaugural meeting.
I also want to thank our co-host, UNITAR, as well as the many other generous sponsors and cooperative organizations that have supported this effort.
While you’re here in Atlanta, please enjoy yourselves,
While last week’s mid-term elections in the United States resulted in an increase in the number of women in political office there is still much that must be done.
Congress now has 86 women of 535 members, there are nine women out of 50 governors, and of course, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California is positioned to be the first female Speaker of the House and the third most powerful public official in the country.
It is a historic reminder of how far we have come.
At this workshop we have assumed the compelling task of determining how we, as women leaders of state and local governments, can work with other governments, businesses, and organizations, to confront and study the challenges of gender inequality.
The primary focus of this conference is to develop a blueprint to address gender equality in our cities and to bring home the idea that it is not possible for women to be equal until there is a core commitment from the highest reaches of government.
This conference will outline the actions governments have taken and must take to achieve gender equality.
We will examine and discuss best practices from across the globe; develop personal commitment action plans and commit ourselves as we sign The Atlanta Declaration on Gender Equality and Government, which will and commit signing members to practical action-oriented steps on gender equality in government
This first ever CIFAL Atlanta gender equality workshop will serve as the kick-off for a worldwide effort, leveraging other CIFAL Centers around the world to replicate the same program in their regions.
As a woman, I do not ask for any special privileges or concessions.
All that I ask is this: When I knock on a door, it opens.
After it opens, I am allowed in.
When am in the room, I can pull a seat up to the table.
When I am at the table, I have the right to express my ideas and give power to my voice without fear.
I don’t want this just for me but for all of my sisters around the world, from North America to North Korea.
Atlanta has been the historic home of the civil rights movement in this country.
I am a woman mayor in a City and a country that has struggled since its beginning as a nation with the piercing razor sharp wounds of racism, discrimination and classism.
As an African American female mayor of a major US city, I am evidence that while progress may not always be swift, it is possible.
We have not yet seen the kind of progress around the world in closing the economic access and decision making gaps for women that we would like.
You all know that women make up half of the world population.
Yet we do 75% of the world’s work, and receive only 10% of the world’s salaries.
Is this fair?
And, as one of our most beloved Atlanta sons, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The abuse, degradation, and marginalization of women and girls throughout the world is dehumanizing to all of us—not just women.
The primary obstacle for us is not men and political arrogance but ignorance.
Once people of good will, whatever their gender, understand the merits of gender equality, they have no choice but to become our allies.
When a woman is brutalized in Latin America, Atlanta or anywhere else in the world, she does not reach her full potential as a wife, a mother, or a human being.
Whether an invading soldier rapes a woman or she is infected with HIV by her husband, there is no difference in the degree of the injustice or the tragic consequences of that violation.
Our challenge is to design solutions and practices that move the needle closer to gender equality.
For non-discriminatory good governance, economic development and poverty reduction
For a halt and elimination of the infection of HIV/AIDS
- And for a practical and swift response to the world wide trafficking of young children in the sex trade business
I am a pragmatist.
So I view this conference as a practical step on our collective journey to fight discrimination against women around the world.
As many as 150 million girls and 73 million boys worldwide are raped or subject to sexual violence each year, it is estimated that over200 million children annually witness domestic violence. (CRIN Civil Rights Information Network)
More than 30 per cent of children in developing countries about 600 million live on less than 1 US dollar a day. (UNICEF)
Every 3.6 seconds around the globe one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5. (UNICEF)
That is why it is important that we are here!
Because right now, even as I speak, some young girl is being trafficked like cattle for the sexual pleasures of men who operate in the underground business of commercial sexual exploitation
Just last week, here in Atlanta we launched a public education campaign, to tell the story of human trafficking and we have the police, the courts and human services organizations to let these men know that kind of business is not welcomed in Atlanta
Even as I speak, another young woman is bending her back over a sewing machine for pennies a day.
Even as I speak, a 12-year old child is preparing for an arranged marriage that will rearrange her life and her dreams.
Somewhere, even as I speak, there is a woman crying in silence because saying no to sex from an HIV infected man is NOT AN OPTION.
So, that is why we are here today.
I know that we all share the hope that one day every woman in the world will be able to live with dignity, to have doors opened to her to have her work valued and justly rewarded, to be governed with equity, and to be able to live without fear of repression or reprisal.
As women leaders, we have a critical role in helping to secure women’s rights, to empower women and to nurture leadership that sows fruitful seeds of change..
A child is a seed, which will, grow proud, capable, and beautiful women who expect, demand, and will ultimately receive what is hers by right and by God.
Let us plant the seed of gender equality.
With our collective determination, in a generation we will see that seed of equality grow and blossom around the globe.
Thank you and I am ready to get to work.