Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the Week of Women 2017 Opening Ceremony

Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the Week of Women 2017 Opening Ceremony, March 20, 2017

Mirëmëngjes.  Dobro jutro.  Good morning everybody.  Wow, what a great crowd!

President Thaçi, Former President Jahjaga, madam mayor, Ms. Bryan, diplomatic colleagues, honored guests.

I’m really honored to be here today to help kick off the 5th annual “Week of Women” in Kosovo, and happy to see so many women leaders coming together today to focus on important issues to everyone.

In a week focused on empowerment and inclusion, it seems only fitting that this year’s theme is that of European Integration.

All this week, events will focus on the challenges of education, health care, and job creation that are so essential for every Kosovo citizen, and to Kosovo’s progress towards its Euro-Atlantic goals.

There is no single milestone or marker that will achieve this integration of course.  It will take the effort and talents of all of Kosovo’s citizens in a multitude of sectors to make it a reality.

But we do know one essential element – we know that greater participation by women in a country’s civil society, politics, and economy leads to greater prosperity and security.

We know, too, that when women are empowered to participate without fear of violence or threat of reprisals, they participate more effectively in their communities.  And when women have a stronger voice, institutions themselves are more likely to be responsive to the needs of the community as a whole.

I believe that central to such notions of inclusion and empowerment is the idea of recognition, of having your voice heard.  Because how can we include – let alone champion – those whom we do not acknowledge?

I recently had the chance to watch the movie “Hidden Figures”, which tells the true story of African-American women working in NASA during the space race, and their extraordinary contributions to American history and science in the face of daily indignities and institutionalized racism.

It’s a powerful story, an inspiring story, and I hope that we can get that movie to be shown here in Kosovo.  It pulls at your conscience as well, as you contemplate how many other extraordinary contributions – by individuals, by groups, by whole nations – have for too long gone unnoticed and untold by history.

Here in Kosovo, in this young country so full of challenges and promise, you know full well the meaning of recognition.

And as you strive for political recognition, you continue to work, as does the United States and all your partners, to recognize the needs and rights of your many communities.  To recognize the essential roles that women play and will continue to play in shaping your future and that of the next generation.

We’ve been privileged to support this effort in Kosovo since 1999, in partnership with civil society groups, local communities, and government leaders.

And we’re proud to partner with all of you who champion women’s economic empowerment, who strengthen Kosovo’s communities and schools, who teach new workforce skills, create jobs, and in so many ways inspire Kosovo’s daughters to dream everyday as big as they can.

And we’ll keep working at it.  We’ll keep supporting NDI and all those with good ideas to help develop the skills of political candidates, and to work with women and youth wings of political parties to develop the next generation of leaders.

Leaders yes, and also the critical role models and mentors that we all need to guide and encourage us, and to make sure that every girl growing up in Kosovo sees that women can be equal partners to men, and that all paths are open to them.

Gatherings such as this one that bring together a diverse group of women are critical to this effort.  And I am particularly pleased that this year we are including men in the Week of Women.  After all, “WE” men are all equally responsible for ensuring that women and girls in Kosovo have the choices, opportunities, and the rights they deserve.  That their potential is nurtured, and their contributions are fully recognized.

Empowerment, equality and inclusion are not easily achieved and they don’t happen overnight, but they’re worth it.  As Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

Again, she said: “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

I’m confident that you will do an excellent job this week in wrestling with the issues that will help empower women in Kosovo, develop their voices, and move this country forward on its European path.

Faleminderit shumë, hvala mnogo, and thank you all very much!