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Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the 18th Annual International Women of Courage Award Ceremony

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Morning, everyone, and welcome – welcome to the White House.

To the First Lady, Dr. Biden, thank you for again opening this remarkable place for this particular celebration, but also for being such an extraordinary role model for women and girls here in our country but also around the world, and for your sustained efforts to advance the rights and dignity of all people.

So we’re joined today by officials from across the United States Government, each one of them a remarkable leader and role model in their own right: Samantha Power, USAID administrator.  (Applause.)  Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council.  (Applause.)  Someone who really needs no introduction, Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary.  (Applause.)  Emmy Ruiz, the White House political director.  (Applause.)  Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues.  (Applause.)  Geeta has obviously stacked the deck here.  (Laughter.)  And Desiree Cormier Smith, the special representative for racial equity and justice, who I’m so proud to serve alongside of at the State Department.  (Applause.)

I also want to acknowledge our team at the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, led by Assistant Secretary Lee Satterfield.  (Applause.)  They are doing so much every single day to build bridges of understanding between the United States and the world, including bringing together our awardees with U.S. public servants and advocates so that they can learn from each other and boost one another.

Now, this year’s International Women of Courage are simply extraordinary.

They’re advocating for domestic workers in Bangladesh and people with disabilities in Afghanistan.  They’re exposing corruption in Uganda, combating sexual harassment in Japan, standing up for the children of war-torn – of wartime rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina, fighting for democracy in Belarus.

We’re honoring a dozen women.  There’s one couldn’t join us today: Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, an unyielding defender of human rights in Cuba. 

Cuban authorities have subjected Marta to a long campaign of detention and abuse, including prohibiting her from traveling abroad.  Marta may not be able to be with us today in person, but we want her to know all of us are with her every single day.  (Applause.)

I think Marta would be the first to say that her struggle is not hers alone.  Governments and societies around the world look to silence, to intimidate outspoken women through imprisonment, through harassment, through violence, through death threats, through the repression of their families and their colleagues.

For these women and so many activists like them around the world, courage is a deliberate and daily choice.

Women and girls demonstrate similar bravery in places that are wracked by conflict and insecurity even as they are disproportionately harmed by that violence.

We also witness the quiet daily strength of women who persist despite the obstacles to their rights, their participation, their basic chances in life, from unequal political and economic power to gender-based violence.

Whether on the front lines of war or the front lines of social change, women are often the most powerful engines for progress.

The United States stands with every woman of courage working to build greater stability, greater equality, and greater opportunity.  And we are committed to knocking down the barriers that prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential alongside them.

That’s why championing the rights of women and girls in all of their diversity is a central part of our foreign policy.

Over the past three years, we’ve put forward concrete strategies, policies, programs to support women and girls around the world.  It’s not simply rhetorical, it’s practical, from increasing their political participation to ensuring that they’re parts of things like the clean energy transition.

Last year, President Biden requested a doubling of foreign aid to promote gender equity abroad – an historic $2.6 billion.

Supporting women and girls is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart and necessary thing to do, and we know this in so many different ways.

We’ve seen this.  The more women serve in legislatures, the less likely countries actually are to actually go to war.  If we were able to close the gender gap around the world in the worldwide workforce, we would add an estimated $28 trillion to the global economy.  Just imagine what we could do to better societies around the world with those kind of resources.  Simply put, when women do better, we all do better. 

As we advance the rights and dignity of women and – around the world and of all people around the world, we will continue to look to, to learn from, to be inspired by our partners in government, the private sector, and civil society – including the women that we’re celebrating here today. 

Now, one of our honorees, Fariba Balouch, has been subjected to persistent threats from Iranian security forces.  But that has not deterred her.  She put it this way: “This is my path…[this is my] responsibility.  I refuse to be silenced.”

That insistence – (applause) – that insistence, that determination to speak up, to speak out, to take action, to refuse the status quo – that’s reflected in all the extraordinary women that we recognize today. 

And it’s exhibited every day as well by the woman that I now have the great privilege to introduce – the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden.  (Applause.) 

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-the-18th-annual-international-women-of-courage-award-ceremony/

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