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Public Statements

International Women's Day

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mrs. SHAHEEN. Madam President, the world came together once again last week to celebrate International Women's Day. Today I want to belatedly commemorate that special day here on the floor of the Senate and welcome the passage of this year's International Women's Day resolution, which I am proud to say that I cosponsored on a bipartisan basis with my colleague Senator Collins, and we had 14 other cosponsors on that resolution.

International Women's Day is observed all over the world. It honors the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future. It also highlights just how far women around the world still have to go and the many barriers and closed doors they continue to face in the fight for equal rights and opportunities.

I want to recognize and celebrate this year's nine recipients of the 2013 State Department International Women of Courage Awards. This prestigious annual award recognizes women who have shown exceptional leadership in advocating for women's rights and empowerment around the globe, often at great risk to their own well-being.

One of those recipients I want to talk about is Razan Zeitunah. She is a human rights lawyer in Syria, and she has made it her mission to track the ongoing atrocities that have been committed by the Assad regime. Mrs. Zeitunah was forced into hiding after the government accused her of being a foreign agent when she began reporting on these atrocities. Despite living in fear for her life, with her husband in prison, Mrs. Zeitunah continues to risk so much to make sure the world knows all about Assad's brutal crackdown on the people of Syria.

She is one of nine remarkable women who are being honored by the State Department this year, each with an equally inspirational story to tell.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the names of all nine honorees.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Malalai Bahaduri

Tsering Woeser

Julieta Castellanos

Nirbhaya ``Fearless''

Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin

Elena Milashina

Fartuun Adan

Razan Zeitunah

Ta Phong Tan

Mrs. SHAHEEN. While I am very pleased that the Senate was able to take up and pass the International Women's Day resolution last night, I am also extremely disappointed that this bipartisan resolution was objected to at the eleventh hour over a clause that addressed the impact of our changing climate on women in developing nations, and I just want to read that clause.

Whereas, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by changes in climate because of their need to secure water, food, and fuel for their livelihood.

That was the extent of the clause that was objected to. Unfortunately, this clause from the resolution was blocked by a Member of the Senate on the other side of the aisle. It was a clause that was included in the 2011 resolution that unanimously passed in the Senate.

Just this past weekend, Navy Admiral Locklear, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, was asked during a 2-day trip to New England what was the biggest long-term security threat facing the Pacific region. His answer was very clear: climate change--this from an admiral who is dealing with a bellicose North Korea and escalating conflict between Japan and China in the East China Sea. His answer to what is the biggest threat to America is climate change. Yet we have one of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle who objected to a clause that points out what is very clear in data around the world, and that is the impact changes in our climate are having on women who are so often the food gatherers for their families.

This issue of climate change is not going away anytime soon. We can deny that it exists, but it exists. The data is clear, and I believe we need to come together to address this serious concern to help other countries find ways of mitigating the harmful effects of climate change.

Just as climate change deserves attention, we also need to continue our effort to promote equal rights and equal opportunities for women everywhere. We know that all of society benefits when women are more fully integrated into their communities and countries, and we need to remain focused on this effort. That is why International Women's Day is so important, and that is why passing a resolution to talk about that in this body is so important.

I am sorry we couldn't agree on everything, but I do think it is important for us to recognize International Women's Day and also to point out areas of disagreement that clearly are going to remain at the forefront in the future.


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