President Jahjaga

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Her words touched me so much, Transcripts from that evening:

Following is President Jahjaga’s address in its entirety

Dear Irine,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin this evening by expressing my deep shock and sadness with the loss of lives in this wave of terror in Paris. My thoughts and prayers are with victims and their families. Tonight reminds us of the danger and enemies of our values and ideals which we must protect together. Tonight we stand with France. Tonight we stand with Paris.

It is a distinct pleasure to address you at this Gala Dinner, in this special jubilee for the Global Summit of Women, which marks the 25th anniversary of an incredibly bold platform aimed at empowering societies by empowering the role that women and girls play in them.

This visionary journey led by the great passion of an inspiring woman, Irene Natividad, has broken barriers, glass ceilings, given voice to the voiceless, and foremost it has reaffirmed that the economic empowerment of women is essential for the progress of any society.

I would like to congratulate you my dear friend Irene for your staunch commitment to bring together women from across the world and bring the issue of gender equality at the forefront of the development of every society in the world.

Every day the belief, the vision and the determination for equal participation between men and women, inspires change, unravells the anept talent of women, draws societies towards peace and reconciliation, and countries towards development, innovation and progress.
Yet every day this vision is challenged and undermined by the decision of families, communities, societies and countries, to treat women and girls as citizens of lower class and their equal participation as a matter of secondary importance.

For decades we have been engaged to change this dual reality by breaking the norms and conventions which keep women away from the public life, discriminated within the walls of their own houses, stripped out of any right to take decisions for their lives.

We have done this with great struggle and fearless determination, for we have refused to live in a world where only half of the population is heard, is present and takes decisions on behalf of everyone.

We are proud of what we have achieved together for generations in row, now enshrined in the universal set of values and conventions which regard women’s rights as human rights, holding every country accountable to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women and young girls.

We have even gone beyond the point of considering gender equality a moral imperative, and acknowledge that gender equality is in fact key to ensure sustainable economic development, achieve meaningful democracy and guarantee a just society.

Last week we were all enchanted by the new prime minister of Canada who elected a gender balanced cabinet. His simple answer for his decision resonated with the vision many of us share.

It is 2015 and indeed gender equality must be at the forefront of the 21st century.
As the former secretary of state Honorable Hillary Clinton has said: ” There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives.

There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.”

Yet despite of all the achievement, we are far from a world of equal rights and opportunities for women and girls.

Today there are only 22 women who lead the state, and at the global level only 22 percent of women are represented in the parliament.

Women are still paid less for doing the same job as men. They still have lower access to economic and financial resources, and lack proper access to health services and even clean water.

While we have recognized the positive impact of empowering girls, we continue to face a reality where girls are denied their right to go to school like their brothers
and often times they are forced to marry at a very young age to much older men, undergo genital mutilation and when giving birth face high mortality risks.

We are still fighting the battles we have once won. We have abolished slavery, yet our girls today are enslaved.

We have never thought that we would again witness such horrendous scenes of women, girls, children chained, sexually abused in the most heineus ways and sold as sex slaves. Yet it is happening everyday by ISIL militants.
We. consider rape and sexual abuse as war crimes yet the bodies of women are still considered as battlefields for political and ideological gains.
Witnessing unspeakable crimes which strip women from their identity, we leave them in shame, while the perpetrators walk free in a culture of impunity for the crimes they commit.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Only last year we shared the plight of our Nigerian sisters kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

We called in one voice, to Bring Back our Girls.
Now when we have embraced our daughters back in our arms, many of them children, a number of them pregnant teenagers and women, we are left with the duty to help them reclaim their lives and fight the social stigma which considers them as outcasts.
When we come together to fight the social stigma, to fight the culture of impunity, bring the perpetrators in front of justice, and offer to the survivors the institutional and social support, we are able to put a stop to this crime, punish the perpetrators and foremost offer to the survivors a real chance to reclaim their lives.

As you know, their sufferings, their stories are personal to me. For they resemble the stories of the women of my country.

I can say loud and clear that it is not only the women who pay the price of the injustices inflicted upon them by this weapon of war but it is the whole society which suffers.
Every time I talk about gender equality I share the stories of the powerful women of Kosovo. I do this for their strength has driven our country and safeguarded the fabric of our society in times of war and in times of peace.

They have fought for freedom, for the rights of their children to acquire education, to access health services.
They have fought for the rights of their whole community to live as equal citizens under a regime which considered them second class citizens, they have fought for human rights.
As an inseparable part of the national struggle to survive, women of Kosovo were ready to sacrifice everything to protect their families, to safeguard their children, including their bodies. They became a part of the tragedy inflicted by aggression.

Today thousands of them carry the scars of the hineous acts of sexual abuse committed by the Serbian forces for political gains. They are victims of rape used as a tool of war, victims of this horrendous crime which is still universally widespread.

For far too long the women of Kosovo battled the shame, the isolation and the social exclusion which this tactic of war left upon their bodies.

Yet at all instances the women activists of Kosovo were there to heal their scars, their wounds, fearlessly calling for the state institutions to recognize what had happened to them and bring justice to the survivors.

Today the survivors of sexual violence during the war in Kosovo have found the support of the institutions of the country under the National Council for the survivors of sexual violence during the war, a mechanism I established last year.

Today we offer a concerted social and institutional response, and proudly declare in one voice that the survivors of sexual violence during the war are our heroines.
Today they have even found the support of friends from around the world who have extended a helping hand.

Friends in the Global Summit of. Women and in the MCM Foundation led by my dear friend Ms. Sungjo Kim who have offered them a second life opportunity, returning hope and pride in their eyes.

We still have a long way to go to offer them the social justice they deserve. Yet we are more than ever determined to uphold our institutional and social obligations and offer the survivors justice.
It is their strength and their courage which gives me hope that their pledge for national and international recognition of the crime, their pledge for justice, and their pledge for a life in peace will be heard.

In these twenty five years, the women of Kosovo went through oppression, war and finally met peace. It was their strength and courageous that helped our society find hope.amidst the rubbles of war and offer peace to all its citizens and opportunities for prosperous lives.
We find similar stories of women and young girls in every society. Stories of women which not always make the headlines but which affect the lives of their families and that of the whole society.

Let us never forget that women are the pillars of our societies which keep us together.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,
For years, we have shared our stories of the long and difficult journey to overcome barriers, the stories of our struggles to see women and girls enjoy their equal rights and freedom, and ensure them access to a life in dignity.

We continue to remain united because we believe we can change the realities in which women and young girls live within our societies.
We believe in the power we have to affect each other’s lives in so many beautiful ways, helping each other create new realities, break new barriers and glass ceilings.

We all believe that a chance offered to a woman, is a chance offered to the whole society.
A woman leading a country is still an exception to the norm. For many societies, including mine, I am the exception to the norm. Yes, we see women leading their countries more often than before, yet we still regard them as exceptional cases.
I am very sure you all believe that a woman leading a country must be a norm as it should be a norm for women to be present at every decision making table, at peace negotiation dialogues, at corporation boards.

For you believe, as I do, that equality is the norm for the future of our world.
It is this belief that we need to transmit to future generations and pave the road for them to talk about values, abilities, opportunities, skills, dreams of all citizens regardless of gender, and take gender equality for granted.

We can do this by working together, alongside with men, to guarantee the respect for the social, legal, political, economic dignity of women and their rights over their bodies in the whole world.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Let us dream of a world of equal rights for all citizens alike. Thank You.

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