|Remarks by IWHC President Adrienne Germain|
Meeting Global Challenges: Healthy Women, Healthy World
|IWHC President Adrienne Germain addresses the crowd at "Meeting Global Challenges: Healthy Women, Healthy World."|
Thank you, Kathleen. And thanks to each and every one of you for being here. Your financial support—and your personal commitment—make the Coalition's work possible.
You might ask—as many do—what exactly does the Coalition do? How do we make good on your investment in us?
Of course, I could talk for hours about the Coalition's work—but I try not to, especially after dinner! Simply put, the Coalition invests in people, organizations, and ideas that are needed to create an indomitable movement for sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially in poor countries.
Hand in hand with women leaders across the world, the Coalition has been building, sustaining, and refreshing this movement for 21 years, often, and currently, in the face of ferocious opposition. We have made astonishing progress, but we still face enormous challenges.
Day in and day out, we and our colleagues work with national governments, the United Nations, and other international agencies to ensure that they prioritize women's health and rights. For example, in the next nine months, we face three major UN negotiations. We will mobilize highly skilled women and young people from every region of the world to lobby government delegations and protect the international agreements we won at Cairo and Beijing. These UN meetings are not just about pieces of paper. They also give women and young people the opportunity to negotiate with their governments, even when they cannot do so at home. Your investment makes this possible.
Your investment also enables women to turn these global agreements into realities in their own countries. In Cameroun, for example, the Coalition supports a group called FESADE, that provides comprehensive sexuality education to young people, and is beginning to advocate for a nationwide program. FESADE has learned, from visiting with our Nigerian colleagues, how to work successfully with their government.
This Nigeria-Cameroun learning exchange is a strong example of one of the Coalition's central strategies—to put women and young people in touch with each other, so that they can share their challenges and their successes, and offer each other moral support in what is often very lonely, not to say tiring, work. In the Coalition's 21 years, we have seen small organizations become national, and national movements become regional, and then mature into powerful global forces. Your investment makes that possible.
Lately, much of our movement's power comes from young people. Youth often out-organize adults these days, in fact! They have amazing courage and stamina, and they are the most credible advocates for their generations, and for generations to come. The Coalition is proud to support groups in Peru such as LUNDU, founded and led by a 24-year-old Afro-Peruvian woman named Monica Carillo. In Pakistan, we fund Aahung, founded by another, exceptional young woman, Shazia Mohamed, who spoke so eloquently here last year. Your investment makes their work possible.
We have faced, and we will continue to face, tough challenges in building this movement. But older and younger women, mothers and their daughters, have always mustered solidarity, energy, and resilience to stand down opposition in the name of justice. Tonight, I want to acknowledge two women who have made an enormous difference to me and to my life course. First, Joan Dunlop. Joan was IWHC's President from 1984 to 1998, and, throughout 32 years of friendship, believed in me and supported my work.
The second woman I want to acknowledge in my life is in fact Hillary Clinton. As first lady and now as our Senator from New York State, she stands strong every day for what is right, and we are so very lucky. When we needed her support during UN negotiations, her door was always open. As valedictorian at Wellesley, in Beijing, in Argentina in 1997, Hillary has always had perfect pitch—the rare ability to know exactly what needs to be said, to whom, and when, and to say it in a way that it can be heard. This is why, everywhere we work, girls and women know who Hillary is!
Today, we look to new generations of leaders for rejuvenation and vision. A great example is the Latin America and Caribbean Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, REDLAC for short. REDLAC has 17 member organizations that help parents, teachers, and other community leaders, as well as young people themselves, understand that young people can only become full and equal citizens when their sexual and reproductive rights are protected. The young women and young men that I have been privileged to work with are also remarkable in the way they work together for gender equality. They are living the vision of mutual respect and equal rights that we all share.
Let me turn now to Nicole Bidegain, who joined REDLAC in 2001. I've worked with Nicole and other RedLAC members in regional and global UN negotiations on health and rights. Their power, their solidarity, their skills, and their judgment are stunning.
I'm proud to say that the Coalition has supported REDLAC since their inception in 1999, and has continued support ever since. Nicole speaks tonight on their behalf.
Click here to read Nicole Bidegain's remarks.