REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY AT
DECEMBER 31ST WOMEN'S MOVEMENT DAYCARE CENTER
I am delighted to be here with all of you today. It is a great honorto be at one of the 31st December Women's Movement Daycare Centers and tobe surrounded by so many women who are creating a new future forthemselves, their families, and for their nation.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge all of the dignitaries who arehere. Thank you for coming and making me feel so welcome.
And I want to say a special word of appreciation to my hostess, Mrs.Rawlings. I remember so well our meeting in the White House in 1994. Iknew when I met Mrs. Rawlings that I had met a very dynamic, creativeleader. And I have looked forward to this day, along with my husband, eversince. We have wanted to come to visit Ghana, and I am so pleased that weare here finally today.
I cannot think of a better place to start with my husband on thishistoric trip to Africa, the first visit ever by a United States Presidentto your country. And I must say that I cannot think of a better way tostart my journey than right here with all of you --surrounded by women andmen and children, because this is where a country is really judged isn'tit? What do we do for our children?
And I have visited many, many different schools and daycare centers,not only in my country, but throughout the world. And I must say, I havenever seen brighter, better behaving, more impressive children than theones I have seen today. I would like to take all the children who dancedand spoke home with me and tour them around my own country because I thinktheir messages would be just as welcome in many parts of the United Statesas they were here today.
Everything we do as individuals, as parents, as grandparents, ascitizens begins with our children --giving our children the chance tolearn, to grow, to dance to sing, to become who they are meant to be, togive them the opportunity to fulfill their own dreams. And so much of whatwe give our children depends upon the opportunities and respect we give ourwomen. Because if women are empowered, if women are respected, if womenare given the chance to live out their own dreams, then boys and girls willas well. And so when I look out at this crowd of such distinguished womenin so many walks of life, I know that you share my belief.
We have what Efua Sutherland called a "sacred responsibility" tochildren. And you are showing the world the role of women in Ghana andacross Africa are playing in transforming their lives, their communities,and their nations. Like many of the women throughout Ghana's history andthroughout Africa, you have come together to help build a strong democracy,a strong economy, a vibrant civil society, with the dream that every womanwill have the health care, the education, the jobs and credit, theopportunities she needs to make the choices that are right for her. Thatis a very important part of what we are attempting to achieve here in yourcountry and in mine --not that we dictate what a woman's choice will be butthat we empower women to make the right choices for themselves.
During my visit to Africa last spring --and I told Mrs. Rawlings Ivery much wanted to come to Ghana, but I also very much hoped my husbandwould come to Ghana. And I was told, save Ghana for the President. So Ihope that I will be able to return again on my own to see what I have seenin other parts of Africa as well.
I have seen women building with their own hands their own homes. Ihave seen women working against diseases that are ravaging the children ofyour continent. I've seen women working with other women to end thesometimes deadly, but always inhumane, practice of genital mutilation. AndI want to congratulate this nation for your leadership, not only by passinga law outlawing this practice, but by making sure that the law changeshearts and minds so that individuals understand what the law means and whyit should be enforced in every village throughout Ghana.
We share common victories and also common challenges. Every day,women are managing the crops, feeding and caring for children, providingwater and fuel for their homes, but every day in too many parts of theworld, women are still being fed less and last. Too many are caught in adeadly cycle of conflict and violence, some in their own homes. Too manyare treated as children under the laws of their nation, unable to buy land,get credit, or receive an inheritance. Too many cannot find good childcare like that offered here for their children when they have to go out towork.
All of this is now changing thanks to leaders like you. And I want tocommend you for everything you and your government are doing to ensure thatthe rights of women are protected and that the voices of women are heard.
All of us must speak out. We must speak out to ensure that no girl isever denied an education. Can you imagine the tragedy of seeing thesebright young girls whom I have seen, listening to them with their pride andconfidence, standing and performing in front of such a large group, beingtold at the age of 10, or 12 or 14, you cannot be educated any further.What a loss. Not only a loss to the nation, but a loss to their families.So we must ensure that all girls are enabled to have an education, becausewhen you educate a woman, you do educate a family and a community and anation. We must speak up to end violence against women in all forms. It doesnot matter if that violence is in our homes or on our streets. Violenceagainst women must never to dismissed as trivial or explained away ascultural. Violence against women should be called what it is --a crime--whether it happens in Ghana or the United States or anywhere else in theworld.
We must speak with one voice --women across the world. And I?mpleased that my government, through the USAID and the Embassy's Democracyand Human Rights Fund, is working as partners with the women of Ghana.
And today I am pleased to announce that the United States governmentwill provide $1 million to create Powernet. Powernet will be a newelectronic bridge, linking our two countries across the ocean, linkingwomen from all walks of life in the United States and throughout Africa.
We know that in the United States that there is much we have to learnfrom you, and we want the opportunity to learn from you. You are findingnew ways of resolving conflicts, creating micro-enterprises, improving thehealth of families, improving the legal system, educating girls. This newPowernet will use the Internet to create dialogue between us, to enable usto share road maps for successes and strategies for the future.
I am so pleased that this kind of opportunity will enable you and thewomen of my country to learn from each other so we can build a strong,better, more just world for our children.
Efua Sutherland wrote something that I liked very much. She said: Ourfathers found us the paths; we are the road makers. They bought us theland with their blood; we shall build it with our strength. We shallcreate it with our minds.
With the women of Ghana continuing to lead the way, I know that willhappen. And I want to thank you for your example and for your leadership,for your encouragement and for all that you are doing, not only to lift upthe people of Ghana, but to give heart to women, men, and childreneverywhere.
Thank you all so much.
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