CHENNAI: Good Evening! On behalf of the U.S. Mission in India, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this performance of “Seven.” Tonight’s program begins our efforts as part of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” campaign.
In 1991 the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) of Rutgers University in New Jersey, along with 23 participants in the first Women’s Global Institute on Women, Violence and Human Rights, called for a global campaign of “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.”
The 16 Days campaign begins on November 25, the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and runs through December 10, which is International Human Rights Day. By linking these two days of commemoration and activism, the 16 Days campaign sends the message that women’s rights are human rights.
Violence against women and girls damages us all. Countries cannot progress when half their populations are marginalized and mistreated, and subjected to discrimination.
Evidence shows that women’s empowerment is critical to build stable, democratic societies; to support open and accountable governance; to further international peace and security; to grow vibrant market economies; and to address pressing health and educational challenges.
The United States has made gender equality and women’s empowerment a core focus of our foreign policy, through:
- the development of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security;
- the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has invested more than $215 million globally in GBV-related programming over the last three years;
- the work of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; and
- efforts to incorporate gender-based violence programming into humanitarian response activities.
In August 2012, the United States released its first-ever Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence globally, along with an Executive Order signed by President Obama directing its implementation. The strategy sets out concrete objectives and actions to marshal the United States’ expertise and capacity to address gender-based violence. The strategy represents a multi-sector and government-wide approach – one that includes the justice, legal, security, health, education, economic, social services, humanitarian, and development sectors.
As Secretary Kerry has stated, “Too many women are being silenced, abused, or subjected to violence simply because of their gender… Their courage must inspire us to continue to work toward a world where every woman can live free of violence and pursue her fullest potential.”
Tonight’s performance of “Seven” tells the true stories of seven ordinary women with extraordinarily courage from Nigeria, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Russia, Pakistan, Northern Ireland and Cambodia. We hope that their stories inspire all of you to do what you can to prevent and combat gender-based violence.
“Seven” was created by seven award-winning playwrights, in collaboration with Vital Voices Global Partnership, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world for us all.
The play, presented as a reading, will be performed by activist, educator, artist, and student representatives of both genders, who lend their voices to the stories of these women. The performers are all alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, who are doing extraordinary work in their communities. We hope that they will share the stories of each of these women with communities across the country, and in doing so, pass on their courage to women – and men – throughout India.
I extend my thanks to our alumni actors and to the members of Pandies Theatre, New Delhi for helping us to bring this moving performance to the city of Chennai.
And thank you all for joining us tonight.