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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today in commemoration of International Women’s Day. Today marks the 101st anniversary of the first International Women’s Day, which recognizes the achievements of women around the world.

Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below. 

Mr. President,

Today, we come to the floor to commemorate International Women’s Day – a day observed around the world which celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  And, it is a day which recognizes the obstacles that women still face in the struggle for equal rights and equal opportunities.

One year ago today I, with the support of a strong bipartisan group of Senators, introduced and passed a resolution in the Senate recognizing the significance of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  Today’s 101st anniversary, like the centennial milestone before it, is a testament to the dedication and determination of women and men around the world to address gender inequality for the good of all people.

There are more than 3.3 billion women in the world today.  Across the globe, women are participating in the political, social and economic life of their communities to an unprecedented extent, playing a critical role in providing and caring for their families, contributing substantially to the growth of economies and advancing food security for their communities.

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate the ten recipients of the 2012 State Department International Women of Courage awards.  This prestigious award annually recognizes women who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment around the globe – often, at significant risk to themselves.

These award winners – activists in Sudan and Saudi Arabia, politicians in Turkey and Afghanistan – are truly remarkable and inspirational women.  I would like to submit all of their names and brief bios for the record so they are properly recognized by this body, but I want to pick just one of these amazing women and briefly tell her story.

Shad Begum is the Executive Director of the Union of Women’s Welfare in one of the most extremely conservative districts in all of Pakistan.  As the founder and executive director of the program, she provides political training, microcredit, primary education and health services to women throughout her community.  She not only encouraged others to run for office, she herself ran for a District Counselor seat in 2001 and 2005, winning the seat against local conservatives who tried to ban female participation.  Despite numerous direct threats to her life and her family, including calls for suicide attacks against her by local extremists, she continues to work to improve the lives of women throughout Pakistan. 

Ms. Shad is one of ten remarkable women that the State Department honored this year.  Each of their ten stories are equally inspirational, but they also represent millions of women around the world who are out there fighting and suffering to be heard.  There are countless women who don’t receive the recognition they deserve, and who continue to be silenced by persecution and harassment. Today, we honor and celebrate these women.    

Far too many women remain excluded from full participation in society, to the detriment of their communities, their countries and the world.  Although strides have been made in recent decades, women across the globe continue to face significant obstacles in all aspects of their lives, including the denial of basic human rights, discrimination and gender-based violence.  According to the World Bank, women make up 70% of all individuals living in poverty.  Women account for 64% of the adults worldwide who lack basic literacy skills.  Women continue to remain vastly underrepresented in national and local governments around the world. 

There is no doubt that we have a lot of work to do, but all of society benefits when women are more fully integrated into their communities and villages around the world.  In the words of President Barack Obama, “our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity – men and women – to reach their full potential.” 

As we reflect on the past, present, and future achievements of women, I think it is important to recognize the vital and untapped resource that women represent for our world.  The ability of women to realize their full potential is critical to the ability of a nation to achieve strong and lasting economic growth, political and social stability and enhanced security for all its peoples.

Thank you, Mr. President.