Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security Panel entitled: A New Global Agenda for Women, Peace, and Security at the Georgetown University John Carroll weekend. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Thank you. Thank you very much. It is an honor to be here today with you. Thank you Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security for your hospitality, for your leadership. Thank you President John DeGioia of Georgetown University for your hospitality and for all that you do for Georgetown.
“To the panelists: Dean Carol Lancaster of the School of Foreign Service, thank you. Dr. Monica Williams, thank you for all that you do for peace. And to President Atifete Jahjaga of the Republic of Kosovo, I thank you for being with us here today.
“Today’s panel focused on not only the critical challenges of security around the world, but identified a clear solution: the leadership of women across the globe. The leadership of women is crucial, during the Women’s March on Washington for suffrage – women’s suffrage. A few years later, as you know, women got the right to vote and the headline at the time was: ‘Women Given the Right to Vote.’ No, not given. I don’t think so.
“Women worked for, earned, fought for, mobilized, marched for the right to vote and that’s how they got it. Women in the Arab Spring were out there making their voices heard, not adequately reflected, in my view, as I have said in many of these countries in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt that I have visited since then. We haven’t seen enough – Egypt – reflection of women in the leadership, as we saw in making the change in those countries.
“Just one other point that I want to make, which I think is really important and I don’t – I want to be hopeful and optimistic, and we should be. But, there is another factor in this and I’ll just demonstrate – tell it by telling you a story. Every year, on Mother’s Day, I bring a group of Members of Congress to Afghanistan, or Iraq, or wherever. And when we don’t go that weekend to that country we go another weekend, but on Mother’s Day, always to visit our troops; to thank our men and women in uniform, especially to acknowledge the role of moms and grandmothers in uniform in the conflict and to meet with the women of Afghanistan.
“And of course over and over again, we’ve met in Kabul with distinguished women, doctors, attorneys, members of Parliament, activists and the rest and it’s really very exciting. But, we also wanted to meet the women in the provinces. So one – I’ll go – and one time I went with this group, but I send my women Members to meet with the women in the provinces, to hear what they have to say. Great wisdom. We went one Mother’s Day a couple of years ago and we talked about all the things: we wanted girls in school, we wanted clinics; health clinics where they would have access – I don’t even want to go into the story of the marching; going two days to see if their baby was ready to come and then it wasn’t, so they had to go back, and then come back, and where can they stay in the meantime? You know, all of the personal examples of not meeting the needs of women.
“But these women, the Governor of Qalat, the province that we were in, met us there. Great big ceremony, flowers and gifts and this or that, and the women said: ‘when we meet with you, we don’t want any men in the room.’ So, that’s just what they wanted. And we had this very straightforward discussion. And it would range from maybe a midwife, or a teacher, I mean we are not talking about lawyers, and professors, or that, but we are talking about women who had risen to the heights in their community. All the way down to some really poor, not down, but across to the very poorest women. One woman told us that she was a beggar the year before, and then she has a job now because of USAID and she was separating raisins from twigs. And that had elevated her family, to do a simple task like that, that job, that economic development for her. And she said this, this poor woman, who was a beggar the year before. She said: ‘you’re telling us that we should send our – we are fighting for us to be able to have our girls educated and we should have more clinics so that we can seek health care for women and all of our families. But there is something that you have to know, that we can’t leave our houses without security and you cannot have security unless you end corruption.’ Think of the wisdom of these poor women out there in the provinces.
“And that is something that, of course it could be systemic corruption, it could be day to day corruption, but it applies across the board. And that is something where women have such a tremendous strength and that is something that we have to breakthrough if we are going to have the full empowerment of women because the status quo in many countries, corruption stands in the way of real development and the inclusion of many people. And it was just a thought that I wanted to convey, to put into the mix here.
“That happened via the same province that Anne Smedinghoff was in – 25 years old – who [was killed in a bombing], understanding that really they were, the target was the Governor, but she was the one, remember the young woman diplomat who was bringing books to poor children in Qalat, that same province. So we have all of this idealism. We have all these possibilities.
“When you were speaking also, Madam President, I was thinking in the questions we’re asked of in Congress, we gave the other day, we gave the Gold Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, and it was really for the work that was done with micro lending for women. Ninety percent of the loans of the Grameen Bank have been given to women, ninety percent. Dr. Mohammad Yunus, he was just, he’s so magnificent and he’s been a frequent visitor to us in California, so we know his work well, many of us for decades, but nonetheless, here we were able to honor him. But, I said at the time – the suffragettes were there in Statuary Hall, as you may have seen, how happy they would have been to see this initiative to empower women economically because in some countries that we visit when they – women don’t have the right to vote, or this, or that, they say: ‘we’re not worrying so much about the right to vote; we would like to have it, men have the right to vote, it doesn’t seem to mean much because the results are what they are, but we see our path economically. We see our path economically.’
“So, we all really are in a – some of it together because in our own country we have resistance to passing the United Nations Convention on the Status of Women. How could that be? We just passed the Violence Against Women Act, over five-hundred days after the bill had expired, the authority had expired. How could that be? One-hundred and thirty-eight people in the Congress, I won’t say who, voted against. They said: ‘I’m for Violence Against Women [Act], but not if you’re an immigrant, not if you’re a Native American, or not if you’re an LGBT.’ How could that be? So we have our work to do. So coming together with the intellectual capacity and rigor of Georgetown, with the path, with a strategic plan to how to collect information, to showcase leadership, to understand the role of mobilization and what it means. So, I was proud to join President, excuse me, maybe I am being premature, Secretary Clinton.
[Laughter and Applause]
“When we would impose on President Karzai every time he would come, or we would go there, or we had any conversation, we would say: ‘all of these councils that lead to other councils, that lead to people at the table in Chicago – where are the women? Where are the women?’ ‘All right I’ll make it this percentage, or that percentage.’ ‘We’re not talking about women you select; we want who the women select to be at the table.’ So, listening to women, as you all have said, is so really, really important. Women are about peace, they’re about security.
“And I will say this; I think that war must be the most uncivilized notion that anybody could ever thought of. We have to make it an obsolete concept because it isn’t the best way to resolve disagreement or conflict, but, we have to be – deal with strength and we have to be prepared. But do you realize that because of war in the last ten years, we have over one-million more veterans in our country with tremendous needs, even more like a million and a half, but well over a million. So let’s think of the consequence of war, whether it’s poor women in Kosovo, or people struggling in every other place in the world, in Africa.
“Let us strive through the institute to try and instill hope and actually violence, violence is a product of despair for many places. The fury of despair draws people and it is fertile territory for drawing people into violent actions. So if we are going to have a more peaceful world, where everybody has their own chance, we really have to have more peace, more security, more women empowered to be making these decisions. Listening to women from the grassroots up – to how this affects them. There is great wisdom there and there is going to be a tremendous way to channel all of that.
“I am from San Francisco and I am always quoting Saint Francis and we’re so proud that the Pope took his name. He is the patron Saint of our city. And his song of Saint Francis is our anthem: ‘make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is darkness, may I bring light. Hatred; love. Despair; hope.’ I really do see this institute, as an institute, an agent for change, Commissioner McWilliams said: ‘an agent for change.’ And I thank you Jeannie, for your generosity in making all of this possible. Congratulations to the institute, to Georgetown. Thank you for letting me be here.”