SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. Ambassador and Mr. Minister, ladies – thank you for being here today for this conversation, for this exchange.
We cannot deny the fact that Senegal has accomplished a lot of progress in terms of equity and equality. Girls and boys now attend primary school at nearly equal levels. The national legislature is on its way to gender parity, which is way ahead of the U.S. But as you know more than anyone, there remains much to do. The pandemic cast light on structural barriers that continue to hold Senegalese women back, like unequal access to land ownership, financing, cell phones, internet, all of which make it harder for women to start their own businesses, to earn a living, and to support their families.
Unfortunately, these challenges are nothing new and they’re not unique to Senegal – everywhere in the world, including in the U.S. – and those obstacles are countless. When we ensure that everybody has access to the same opportunities, that’s a good thing for economies and societies. Empowering women and girls unlocks enormous potential, and we know this through our experience. For a country like Senegal, which saw an explosive economic growth in the years before the pandemic, ensuring women’s economic empowerment is a powerful tool to help build back faster and more robustly. Moreover, it’s simply the right thing to do. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens is deeply unjust, and this is something that needs to end throughout the world.
The U.S. is committed to a future where every Senegalese woman and girl has the opportunity to fully realize her potential. We’re supporting programs, such as activities by USAID, for entrepreneurship investment, which expands financing options for women entrepreneurs. We’re deepening people-to-people ties between our countries through programs such as the YALI Initiative and the International Visitor Leadership Program, IVLP, which is represented here by many alumnae.
You are all the embodiment of what happens when a society is able to unlock all of its talents. You’re entrepreneurs. You’re bringing sustainably farmed foods from rural supply to urban demand. You’re government officials who are building your country’s cyber security capabilities. You’re business leaders and you’re powering, single handedly, Senegal’s clean energy transition. And you’re providing low-income families with access to credit and you’re increasing access to remote education for women and girls.
I would like to thank each and every one of you first and foremost for all of your work, for the example that you’re setting, and for the lives that you’re improving. I look forward to hearing more about your experience and your ideas. And please tell us how we can best support you. Tell us how we can give other women and other girls in Senegal the means necessary to follow in your footsteps.
Thanks again for your participation in today’s events, and I look forward to hearing from you. (Applause.)