(as prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon, everyone. All protocols observed.
March is Women’s History Month. While we often use this month to celebrate the many accomplishments of women, today we take the opportunity to focus on women as some of the most vulnerable victims of trans-national terror and violent extremism.
Today, as I speak to you, Nigerian women and girls are suffering from this very scourge. That is a travesty. The stark, terrible images come to us on the news—a young girl shot in the face in Pakistan for simply standing up for her right to an education; thousands of women fleeing ISIS violence in Syria and Iraq, clinging to frightened children; women who are now the sole provider for their families, their partners having been murdered or simply disappeared. Women and girls are kidnapped and forced into marriage or sold into slavery, forced by human traffickers or lured into believing they can improve their economic status.
During Women’s History Month it is important we discuss these issues. While too often women are the victims, they are also the heroes, strong and resilient, rising above these tragic circumstances. We saw this resilience with Malala Yousefazi, the young Pakistani girl who would not be denied an education even as violent extremists tried to kill her. We have seen it with some of the young women who have escaped their Boko Haram kidnappers and are putting their lives back together. Today’s discussion will not only shed light on the suffering endured by the most vulnerable among us. It must also serve as a call to action about what we can do to alleviate and end this misery.
Thank you for participating in this important dialogue. Thanks especially to the panelists and for your leadership in Nigeria. We have in our midst:
Inatimi Peter Odio, who has spent his career working to reduce violence against women and girls in the Niger Delta;
Amarachi Ogbonna, whose focus is on economic self-sufficiency among women in the North;
Olatunji Olanrewaju, whose focus is on internally displaced persons (IDPs)—and I have been to several IDP camps;
Amina Abba Zoru, an educationalist from Borno State; and
Barbara Maigari, a lawyer and human rights advocate.
In the audience, we have many experts on women’s advocacy issues, as well as a large cohort from the Bring Back Our Girls movement. We look forward to an energizing discussion on a vital topic relevant to the status and aspirations of women worldwide and in Nigeria.
Thank you for your dedication to the cause of equal rights for all, and especially for addressing the unique and especially horrific challenges faced by women and victims of terrorism. Your work is vital. Thank you.