As we gathered in Delhi this morning to officially kick off our regional summit, Vital Voices of Asia, 250 delegates took their seats to listen to a welcoming address from our summit moderator, anchor Zain Verjee of CNN International. Early on, Zain set the tone for a dynamic first session when she remarked: “This summit is not just about talk – it’s about action.”
Opening speakers included India’s Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Menon Rao, Ambassadors Timothy Roemer and Melanne Verveer, and Chair of Vital Voices’ Board of Directors, Susan Davis.
Secretary Rao expressed her pride as a representative of our host nation, saying that there is an established tradition of “strong, resilient women” in India. Rao acknowledged this gathering as a critical opportunity “to demonstrate the progress, the power and the potential of women in all sectors, the world over.”
With a focus on collaboration among the diverse delegates gathered, who include handcraft entrepreneurs from rural Nepal and journalists who cover news in China’s largest cities, speakers urged that those gathered reach out to one another. Borrowing a catchphrase from CNN, Susan Davis encouraged the delegates to “go beyond borders, reach out to the women around you, from the countries around you.”
As U.S. Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer spoke to his personal experience of the ripple effect that women’s contribution can have, which he’s seen in his travels throughout the country:
“I have seen the tangible benefits that go far and wide when women are given opportunity. Wherever I have seen women given real opportunity, I have seen their families doing better. When their families do better, their community does better. When their community does better, their nation does better. When their nation does better, our world does better.”
This month, we mark the 15-year anniversary of the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China. Ambassador Melanne Verveer spoke to the significance of our current gathering in Delhi as we reflect on all that’s been achieved since the Beijing conference decidedly spurred a movement for women’s equality around the world.
Whereas Beijing was a definitive “call to action” 15 years ago, Ambassador Verveer urged that delegates convened recommit themselves to the ideals set forth in that historic conference:
“Your voices are so vital to create a better life for women and men, boys and girls. You represent the change we seek.”
In her video message to summit participants, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged women as drivers of change, asking that women join together in one voice to create change.
“Join us, let us create a world where women have equal opportunity to live and lead to their full potential.”