Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Washington, DC
May 30, 2012

Greetings from Washington! I am so sorry I can’t be with you in Kyiv but I am honored to have the opportunity to commend all of you on your work to advance the progress of women and would like to thank NDI, the OSCE, CIDA and the “Equal Opportunities” legislative caucus for their ongoing commitment to empowering women. Building partnerships between the government and civil society is essential for advancing opportunities and rights for women around the world.

A growing body of research shows that the world's most pressing economic and political problems simply cannot be solved without the participation of women. That's why Secretary Clinton is working to ensure that advancing the status of women and girls around the world is fully integrated into every aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

As you know, women are entering the field of politics and government in growing numbers, yet their gains have been uneven and their leadership often goes unrecognized.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, women hold almost 20 percent of seats in parliaments worldwide, and serve as heads of government in over 20 countries. While these are positive developments, women are still vastly underrepresented globally. Women are half the population yet they hold less than one-fifth of positions in national governments, which means that important decisions that affect women, their families, and their societies are made without their having a voice.

No one knows better than you that in Ukraine, women continue to be significantly excluded from top political positions….women are few in number in the Verhova Rada. It is particularly difficult when political parties do not recognize the important role that women can and must play. A democracy without the participation of women is a contradiction in terms.

We know that when women are discriminated against in the political field, their experiences, talents, and perspectives are shut out of the policy decisions of our democracies, and the prospects for a better world for all of us are short-changed. It is therefore our common goal and responsibility to help women become more successful political candidates by addressing the full range of challenges they confront.

We know it’s not enough to be elected or appointed to government service. Women must also have the ability to exercise responsibilities effectively once in office. Capacity-building for governance, developing networks and alliances to help women surmount barriers and working to break down the stereotypes that keep women from excelling in politics is critical. That is why events such as this one – leading up to the 2012 parliamentary elections - are so important to developing strategies to grow women’s vital political participation

Women are the agents of change in their societies - advancing political, economic, and social progress, creating peace and stability - and we need each and every one of you to lend your skill and energy to creating a better future. Women’s participation in government, civil society, business, education and so much more is critical to overcoming challenges, healing divisions, and creating a better life for everyone – men and women, boys and girls.

I hope you will carry with you a renewed sense of possibility and commitment to use your skills and energy to contribute to the growth and progress of your families, your communities, and your countries. Secretary Clinton has called this a "Full Participation Age," an era when information transcends borders, opinions and ideas scale firewalls, and the world can no longer afford to leave millions of women out of the global community. It's no coincidence that those countries that deny women basic human rights are some of the poorest and least stable. Women can and will help create a stronger, more stable, more secure, more prosperous, more peaceful world.

And with greater political participation, women across Ukraine can and will create a more prosperous and democratic Ukraine

Thank you.

[This is a mobile copy of Video Message for Ukraine]

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