An official website of the United States government

Ambassador Leonard’s Updated Remarks to Commemorate 16 Days of Activism
Tuesday, December 6, 2022 National Center for Women Development, Abuja
December 6, 2022

Good morning.  Since November 25 we have been raising our voices in support of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which concludes on December 10, International Human Rights Day.  In support of this campaign, we are honoring stories of loss, survival, and perseverance, and I have been renewing the U.S. government’s commitment to end this scourge.  I am pleased to share and celebrate this important commemoration with you.

As the U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a leader, and a woman, gender equality and women’s empowerment are causes that are near and dear to me.  They are also priorities for the U.S. government at home and around the world.

I see this every day from the highest levels of President Biden’s administration right through to the U.S. government teams and our partners here in Nigeria.  The Biden Administration’s first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, which includes a goal to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, has been foundational to this.

Meanwhile, the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and the United States contributes over 200 million dollars each year towards gender equity and equality programming around the world.  Indeed, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power announced last week a new vision for global development, which includes a commitment to double investments in advancing gender equality and to increase our efforts to end GBV.

Fundamentally, we see it as our duty – and that of everyone who seeks a just and equitable society – to ensure women and girls have opportunities not just to participate but also to lead in all aspects of life. That is why I can think of no better theme than “Unite!” to end violence again women and girls.

Nigeria has made progress in advancing women’s issues, including the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act and the implementation of the National Gender Policy.  However, when the agency of millions of women is under threat, it can undermine the public health, economic stability, and security of an entire country.

Nigerian women’s full participation in society is fundamental, including from the platform of political office.  The representation of women in state and national government stands at only four percent in elective office and 16 percent in appointed positions – we hope that can change in the upcoming 2023 elections and beyond.  Elections offer a a critical opportunity to include more women in leadership positions and at the decision table.  Elections are equally the occasion to hold male candidates to account or the pledges as regards women and gender-based violence.

Recognizing the challenges women face, the United States will continue our long-standing partnership with the Government of Nigeria, the private sector, and civil society, to each do our part to build a more gender-inclusive Nigeria.

In closing, I urge us all to increase the momentum.  Let us work collectively and push beyond the 16 Days so that women and girls can be safe from gender-based violence and can reach their full potential.

Thank you.