Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Women, Peace and Security Workshop
August 6, 2021
Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defense Force, Brigadier Godfrey Bess,
Colonel Elizabeth Evans and the delegation from the Florida National Guard,
Distinguished members of the Guyana Defense Force,
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pride I stand here today, to congratulate the participants of this historic workshop. When Tradewinds 2021 happened this June in Guyana, it was the first time that an element of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) was integrated into the Tradewinds exercise. During Tradewinds, more than 200 soldiers and law enforcement personnel from partner nations were given a course on the importance of promoting and integrating women in the defense and security sectors. The course also enhanced their knowledge of gender perspectives and the WPS global effort, as well as the ability to discuss the benefits of applying gender perspectives in defense and security institutions, along with the inclusion of women in decision-making.
This workshop is building on that course. It has strengthened our partnership by providing unique focus on the significance of women’s progression. The breakout sessions further solidified U.S. and Guyana’s mutual efforts and values by leveraging women in team building. This program gave SOUTHCOM and the FL National Guard opportunities to exercise operations, activities, and investments to a broad environment of Guyanese participants, building relationships, identifying further engagement opportunities, and strengthening our resolve for a secure and prosperous Guyana.
Through the passage of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, the United States became the first country in the world with a comprehensive law on Women, Peace, and Security. The U.S. Government also released the 2019 U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security, and the State Department Implementation Plan in 2020, which has strengthened the U.S. priorities of protecting and supporting women in efforts to prevent conflict, promote peace, and countering violent extremism. The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues is proud to serve as the lead coordinating office for the State Department’s WPS efforts, which includes a special focus on women’s economic empowerment, which is a vital part of security.
The SOUTHCOM’s WPS Program recognizes the diverse roles women play as agents of change in preventing and resolving conflict, countering terrorism and violent extremism as well as building post-conflict peace and stability in our Hemisphere.
WPS is centered on four pillars: Participation, Prevention, Protection, and Relief and Recovery. This foundation provides unique engagement opportunities to strengthen bilateral relationships with regional partners through collective efforts that reinforce women’s empowerment, meaningful participation in decision-making, protection from violence, and access to resources.
Inclusiveness increases mission effectiveness and drives positive outcomes. With women making up over 50% of the population, they bring unique and necessary skills to security forces. We know that when we invest in a woman, she changes not only her own life, but also that of her family and community. Add that change in a key institution, such as the military, and she will change that institution and her country.
While structural changes to recruitment, training, and promotion systems are critical, we must also acknowledge the contributions of talented women across the security sector. We have made it our mission to empower women by highlighting those who are breaking barriers in our region. We want to make those that are invisible, visible.
I also want to give a special thank you to the delegation from the Florida National Guard, led by Colonel Elizabeth Evans, for leading this workshop. It is my hope that the relationships formed during this workshop will continue to deepen our engagement, for the benefit of all Guyanese and their national security. The U.S. remains committed to working on issues of women’s empowerment in all sectors, and welcomes the GDF’s interest and willingness to the same. In June, the GDF nominated the first female to the prestigious U.S. Air Force Academy, and she was one of 15 foreign students selected for the program. I am sure you have discussed other accomplishments by Guyanese women during this workshop, and I look forward to our continued efforts. Thank you very much, and congratulations to all the participants.