Members of Parliament,
Newly Elected Local Government Officials,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the Press Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tonight, during Women’s History Month, we honor Guyanese “Women in Politics.” It is fitting that on the heels of the first local government elections in over twenty years –elections that were free, fair, and credible — that we pause to recognize the achievements of women, not only in Guyana, but throughout the world, for their contributions in making their societies a better place to live, work, go to school, and raise a family. We come together this evening to recognize women who have made an impact in promoting peace, prosperity, and stability to the citizens of Guyana. And those women are you, you, and all of you!
President Obama said it best when he described women as “having driven humanity forward on the path to a more equal and just society, contributing in innumerable ways to our character and progress as a people. For too long, women were formally excluded from full participation in our society and our democracy. Because of the courage of so many bold women (like many of you here tonight) who dared to transcend preconceived expectations and prove they were capable of doing all that a man could do and more, advances were made, discoveries were revealed, barriers were broken, and progress has triumphed.”
That does not mean that we are there yet. We all know that while much progress has been made, much more needs to be done. We must continue working together to promote gender equality and empower women and girls to realize their full potential. We must change the way some people think and eliminate violence against women as way to assert what they think is authority. We have to improve protections for members of the LGBT community and fight the stigma of people with the virus that causes HIV/AIDs. We must make progress in promoting the fundamental human rights of all people and in eliminating stigma and discrimination against gender and sexual minorities.
In the United States, women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Rosa Parks worked tirelessly to help women get the right to vote. In my home state of South Carolina a woman named Nikki Haley is the duly elected Governor. My old boss former Secretary Hillary Clinton is trying to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling and become the first women president in our 240 year history. In Guyana, the influence of leaders like former President Janet Jagan, former Public Service Minister Dr. Faith Harding, and former Member of the National Assembly Sheila Holder endures today.
I close by reminding everyone that government certainly cannot solve all of our communities problems, but equally certain is that all stakeholders have a role to play, including government, the private sector, civil society, the media, and others to address the challenges facing us all today.
With the significant discovery of oil off the shores of Guyana, this country is poised to transform from being one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere into one of the richest. It is going to take the collective effort of all Guyanese citizens – men AND women — to ensure Guyana makes the transition seamlessly. I have said since I arrived here in September that my goals are to help Guyana become a more safe, secure, and inclusive society. I look forward to continuing to work with you all to make that happen.
Thank you for coming and enjoy your evening.