Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer for Global Women’s Issues today stressed that progress for women and progress for democracy go hand in hand.
In her statement before the Subcommittees on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues in Croatia, Ms. Verveer highlighted the U.S. government efforts to empower and enable the women to continue and enhance their participation in the political, economic, and social lives of their societies.
“The people of post-revolutionary Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have a real opportunity to consolidate their hard-fought democratic gains, but this will not be possible if their women do not participate fully in the political process leading to democracy.” -Ms. Verveer
Ms. Verveer noted that many women woke up with the Arab Spring, and they will not go back to sleep. She said in Tunisia, which held its first fully democratic election on October 23, women won around 25 percent of the seats in the new Constituent Assembly. Egypt has begun its election season, and women are plunging into the political fray. She added that new constitutions will come from the assemblies constructed in these elections, and it is vital that gender equality be enshrined in the constitutions at the very beginning.
“In Libya, after four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of struggle for liberation, in which women played a vital role, the Libyan people can celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise.” -Ms. Verveer
She explained that when women are discriminated against in the political arena, their experiences, talents, and perspectives are shut out. She said it will affect the new democracies not just in the political arena but also economically and socially, diminishing the prospect for a free and secure future. She noted that the transitions will be both political and economic, and women in leadership positions can only help to overcome the disturbing economic legacies left by decades of dictatorship by improving productivity and increasing economic opportunities.
“Studies show that women-run small and growing businesses are accelerants of economic growth and women’s increased participation in the workforce grows economic prosperity.” -Ms. Verveer
She cited that women in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya played a frontline role in bringing down entrenched dictatorships. They were in Tahrir Square, in the streets of Tunisia, and across Libya standing shoulder to shoulder with the men, struggling for a better future.
“As these new democracies evolve, the United States and the wider international community must stand ready to help them build representative governments from the ruins of tyranny. As the new leaders emerge, we must clearly communicate that democracy without the full participation of half its population is a contradiction in terms and that an economy without the inclusion of women will not prosper.” -Ms. Verveer
She highlighted that women on the front lines of these transitioning countries themselves are sending the message, and the women deserve the world’s recognition and support for what they have done and are doing to strengthen their nascent democracies and to create more vibrant and equitable societies.