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Speeches, Remarks & Statements in 2012

“Honoring Women in an Age of Participation”

International Women’s Day,

OP-ED by Ambassador Paul D. Wohlers

March 08, 2012 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that “what we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish.” These words have particular relevance as we celebrate International Women’s Day here in Macedonia and around the world and as we continue to make strides for women’s progress.  

Today in Washington D.C., Secretary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the 6th annual International Women of Courage Awards, honoring ten remarkable women from around the world. These women have shown exceptional bravery and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk. Their stories represent just a few of the emerging leaders found in every corner of the world.  

Yet, as we rightfully honor achievements, we also must be reminded that International Women’s Day is an opportunity to renew the call for action, investment, and commitment to women’s equality. We are at a moment of historic opportunity. Secretary Clinton has referred to this era as “the Participation Age.”  This is a time where every individual, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religious background, can be a contributing and valued member of their society. 

Around the world, and right here in Macedonia, we are witnessing examples of the Participation Age.   At the U.S. Embassy in Skopje today, we will be hosting a ceremony to recognize 21 women of courage from this country.  These 21 women from different ethnic, social, and educational backgrounds have been pioneers in promoting human rights and women’s empowerment through programs supported by our USAID Mission in Skopje.  Their work in Economic Growth, Democracy, Rule of Law and Governance, and Education has strengthened their communities and this nation, and they are role models to young men and women alike. 

One of these remarkable women is Zhaklina Durmish, Director of the Roma Education Center.  Zhaklina, who has a background in law and civil society, has worked tirelessly to bring educational opportunities to Roma children around this country.  Founder of the Network of Educational Centers in Macedonia and the current Executive Director of the Association Center for Educational Support Dendo Vas, she has worked with USAID since 2004 to increase school enrollment and retention for Roma boys and girls, while seeking to increase parents’ involvement in their children’s education.  Her efforts have made a real difference in the Roma community and, most importantly, in the lives of children who are transformed by the power of an educated mind.  

Ensuring equal opportunity for women is a priority in American foreign policy because the simple fact is that no country can hope to move ahead if it is leaving half of its people behind. Women and girls help drive our economies. They play key roles in building peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone—the world over. As we honor them today, let us renew our resolve to work for the cause of equality each and every day of the year.