REMARKS BY CHARGEE D’AFFAIRES VERNELLE FITZPATRICK
AT THE LAUNCHING CEREMONY OF THE PROJECT “EMPOWERING FEMALE ELECTED LEADERS IN CAMEROON FOR EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP” MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2021
Good morning everyone. I am delighted to know that so many women, each of you with important leadership roles in public life, are coming together to invest in yourselves and each other.
The U.S. Embassy is proud to have a small role in supporting you, and the advancement of women generally, by funding the program we are launching today. I hope to join the closing session in person to meet some of you and hear your feedback on the program.
I want to take a moment to give special thanks to the representative of the Minister of Women’s Empowerment and the Family, whose participation demonstrates the Ministry’s commitment to helping women in Cameroon reach their potential. I am also grateful for the support of the executive bureaus of the National Assembly and the Senate and other Cameroonian authorities in helping to make this workshop a success.
Honorable members of the Senate and the Parliament,
My country is a committed partner and friend of Cameroon, and the Empowering Female Elected Leaders program reflects important aspects of that partnership. We want all Cameroonians to flourish and prosper, which is why we are the number one contributor to meeting humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and why we have invested over $600 million dollars to strengthen the health system here. We believe that Cameroon will be strongest when all its people can contribute equally to forming their community together, when all people enjoy equal rights and equal access to opportunity. We stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the effort to end gender inequality by supporting women’s leadership.
Women’s political participation is essential if our societies will be able to develop in an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable way. This is just as true in my own country as yours. And women in the United States still have barriers and prejudices to overcome to achieve equal representation in political life. Currently, women make up only 27% of the representatives in the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress and 24% in the upper chamber. Women are mayors in only 23% of U.S. cities over 30,000 people. In my own profession, in recent years, women have filled roughly one-third of U.S. ambassador positions.
But there are always remarkable women who continue to break through barriers and inspire others by being an example of what is possible, proving that we are capable of the highest levels of leadership. Last January, Kamala Harris made history as the first woman elected Vice President in the United States, showing the world that women belong at the table when policy is made and power exercised.
Kamala Harris has worked hard to develop her leadership skills and has undoubtedly relied on the support of many people along the way. As she said during her Vice President-elect acceptance speech, you all should “Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others might not see you.” By developing your own leadership skills, believing in yourselves, and supporting one another, you can expand your impact to help the people in the cities, districts, and regions you serve. At the same time, you will be helping to carve a more accessible pathway for a growing generation of women leaders in Cameroon.
Earlier this month, the campaign theme for International Women’s Day was “Choose to Challenge.” Leaders are people willing to challenge the status quo and stand up for what is right, speaking truth to promote the rights and opportunities of those who do not yet enjoy equal access to them.
You can have a huge impact, and that is why we are investing in you through this program.
I would like to thank all those contributing to make it happen, especially the speakers who will share their experiences and knowledge and our partner PROTEGE QV, led by Sylvie Siyam, organizing all the logistics.
I hope that you all have a productive, fun, and inspiring time during this exciting project.