(As Prepared for Delivery)
Chief Minister Lal, distinguished guests, thank you for the invitation to join you today.
I would like to congratulate the Chief Minister for initiating today’s call to action to save and educate the daughters of Haryana. It is not a coincidence that Prime Minister Modi launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao earlier this year from Haryana. Haryana’s efforts to promote the health, education, and development of women and girls are worthy of recognition. I’d also like to recognize Parineeti Chopra, one of Haryana’s own, for taking up this cause and being here with us tonight as the Brand Ambassador for this initiative.
I am also delighted to see leadership from corporations and industry joining us for today’s event and supporting the cause through public-private partnerships. The Memorandum of Understanding signed today between the Confederation of Indian Industries, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Government of Haryana is an indication of corporate India’s commitment to improve the lives of women and girls of Haryana.
I often speak about how the rise of India and the deepening U.S. – India relationship will have a profound and positive impact on global peace, prosperity, and security. At the heart of our relationship is the creative and economic potential of our people. One of the keys to unlocking this potential is empowering women and girls.
As Prime Minister Modi has said: “Girls… contribute to India’s fame and glory. Let’s recognize it. Let’s take them along, shoulder to shoulder.” India also recognizes that a successful approach to empowering women and girls must be multifaceted. A healthy mother will be more likely to give birth to a healthy daughter, a healthy daughter will be more likely to succeed at school, and success at school will lead to more economic opportunities. This is the essence of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao program.
According to recent data from the International Monetary Fund, women’s full economic participation would add as much as 13 percent to India’s per capita income. When women are guaranteed access to education and opportunity, they are able to make better choices for themselves and their families; their children are healthier; they live longer; and they are accepted and participate as full members of their communities. When women are empowered to move forward, they bring the rest of society with them.
I’ve certainly seen this in my own family as well, from my wife’s grandmother who escaped the ravages of World War in Europe to bravely set out to build a new life in New York City; to my grandmother and mother who resettled in Punjab following partition, who managed to become educated and devote their lives to teaching underprivileged girls. Last month, I had the chance to visit the school where my grandmother taught in Jalandhar, which 50 years later is still committed to providing disadvantaged girls a chance to succeed. My wife and two daughters, who are 10 and 7, are following in these big footsteps, and charting out their own path breaking ways as well. We have been blessed to have such strong role-models, who overcame big odds. Through this initiative we recognize here today we pledge to work with you to ensure even more girls are given the chance to overcome big odds, fulfill their dreams, and become the future leaders of this great country.
The US Government has been pleased to be a partner in and support the goals of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. Right here in Haryana, we’ve supported the Health Management Information System, which monitors reproductive, maternal, and child health indicators and helps reduce gender disparities in health coverage across the state. Based on its success here, the initiative is now being scaled up in other states. Next month, we are co-hosting the Call to Action Summit 2015 in New Delhi to discuss progress, share best practices, and forge alliances for ending preventable child and maternal deaths. We also support the work of the multi-country Girl Rising campaign, which has been invited to participate in the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Task Force, and where it will be able to drive forward initiatives for girls’ empowerment and education.
On education, we are working with Chintan, a well-respected NGO in Delhi, to assist women and girls within the waste picker community. By providing safe spaces and childcare for toddlers, girls as young as six years old no longer have to drop out of school to take care of younger siblings. The Embassy’s Community College Initiative Program, which sends underprivileged students to study for one year in a U.S. community college, recruits from organizations like Pardada Pardadi, a truly innovative girls’ school in rural Uttar Pradesh. This year, we will send one young woman from Pardada Pardadi to Edmonds Community College in Seattle.
I would like to close today with the example of one of Haryana’s own daughters. Last January, I had the honor of accompanying President Obama when he was chief guest at India’s Republic Day Parade. We were both privileged to witness Lieutenant Commander Sandhya Chauhan leading a contingent of the Indian Navy, proudly marching past those saluting from the dais. Lieutenant Commander Chauhan, from the city of Rewari in Haryana, represents what girls everywhere can achieve for themselves and what they can contribute to their nations. Let’s follow her lead and march forward together towards a more just, equitable, and prosperous world.