Thank you all for coming together with us to have this very important discussion. And allow me to recognize the presence of Undersecretary Gil Beltran from the Department of Finance in the Philippines, with thanks for taking time out of your very busy schedule to attend this important event. Of course I would also like to thank Stephen O’Connell, USAID’s Chief Economist who is joining us from Washington DC, and so many other distinguished guests.
I am delighted to be with you today on the beautiful campus of Dhaka University to open the International Conference on Gender, Diversity, and Development. Today, and throughout this event, we celebrate the achievements that Bangladesh has made in empowering women. More importantly, this conference provides a platform for us all to discuss the challenges ahead – challenges that we must address now – to fully affect change and achieve true equality for all women and girls.
As we have already heard this morning, South Africa is burdened by one of the most severe TB epidemics in the world. Additionally, South Africa has the greatest burden of HIV-infected individuals - and the TB and HIV epidemics are fueling each other.
It is an exciting time as 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations.
The anniversary is an opportunity to take stock in how far this relationship has come and how much it has benefited the people from our countries. Over the past 20 years, our bilateral trade has grown from only $450 million to over $35 million annually in 2014. Over approximately the same time period the people of Vietnam have reduced their country’s poverty level from nearly 60 percent in the 1990s to 17 percent in 2012.
At USAID, we believe that by partnering to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies, we are helping developing countries transform into peaceful, open, and flourishing partners for our nation.
The United States has been a leading supporter of disaster risk reduction through its development assistance. USAID alone has provided about $1.2 billion to support disaster risk reduction in 91 countries over the past decade. As part of USAID’s new policy on resilience, we are marshalling our humanitarian and development resources to help the world’s most vulnerable mitigate risks in the face of recurring disasters. We are pursuing public-private partnerships to help scale up these efforts, including the Global Resilience Partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Greetings, all. I’d like to start by thanking sincerely panelists Boots, Su-Mei, Leena, and Shalaka for helping us to better understand how investors, women entrepreneurs, women’s rights activists, and development practitioners are engaging in the field of gender lens investing in Asia. They’ve helped us to better appreciate how important it is to link gender expertise with philanthropic, investment, and government funding, for the greater social good. I read an article recently in the New York Times by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, who in her bestselling book calls on women to “lean in” at work and embrace the will to lead. She’s also calling for a new way to advocate for gender parity. She writes: “We need to go further and articulate why equality is not just the right thing to do for women but the desirable thing for us all.”
On behalf of USAID, I am delighted to be here today to celebrate International Women’s Day and to honor the accomplishments of women throughout the world, but most particularly in Bangladesh. Over the past four decades, Bangladeshi women have made enormous strides. They have achieved political empowerment, better job prospects, and improved education. Women have been the engine behind the amazing growth of the ready-made garment industry, which is now number 2 in the world – second only to China. Women now constitute approximately 80 percent of the workforce in this hugely important industry.
This is a wonderful opportunity to engage with lots of smart folks on the major barriers and opportunities for scaling-up promising innovations, to help us all better address development challenges and deliver stronger results.
In-de-men a-de-ra-chu and good morning! It is a real pleasure to join you all this morning at this event to commemorate International Women’s Day. Thank you to my colleagues from USAID and Addis Ababa University for inviting me to participate and to speak about the important issue of women in development.
Last updated: April 17, 2015