Cherie with some of the girls taking part
Bob Zoelick speaking at AGI
Ana Luisa shows her craft work
By supporting each other we can finally make the 21st century the century of women's empowerment.
On 10th October 2008 Cherie met a group of remarkable adolescent girls when she was asked to participate in the launch of the World's Bank Adolescent Girls Initiative ("AGI") at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington. Following the individual statements of the girl participants Cherie made the following contribution to the proceedings.
"I would like to address my remarks to three groups of people in this room.
Firstly to the wonderful girls and young women who are with us today, to Phenapha, Ana Luisa and Joyce all of whom spoke so movingly and to the other girls here today who I know will shine later. Everyone here was moved by what you said. You were strong; you were confident and you spoke powerfully not just about your own experiences but about the experiences of hundreds of thousands of girls like you around the world. It is not easy and sometimes you may feel overwhelmed and disempowered by what is happening all around you but remember whenever people say to you "this is not for you because you are just a girl", they are wrong. Be strong, be confident. This is your right. You are entitled to be treated as equals. Don't let anybody take that away from you.
Secondly, I would like to say to the other "girls" in the room, or rather, those, who like me, where girls once but who have come so far in their own journeys to be here today. I myself was the child of a single mother from a modest background. My mother had had to leave school at 14 when her own mother died to look after her father and younger brother. Later after she was abandoned by my father she had to take any job just to keep a roof over our heads. Yet she was determined that my sister and I would be educated and have the opportunities she had been denied and it was that education coupled with hard work and God's blessings which led to a girl like me ending up spending ten years at 10 Downing Street, one of the most famous addresses in the world.
But my story is not unique. Every women here will have a similar story to tell because there is no doubt that the last fifty years have been years of progress for women particularly in the developed world. One thing I have noticed that there are huge reserves of goodwill that women have for each other and if the women from the developed world can join hands with women from the developing world then we can finally make the 21st century the century of women's empowerment.
And finally, I want to address the men here. You are all fathers, husbands and sons and by your presence here you have shown your commitment to this cause. For you know, as many other men know, that this is not about favouring one sex above another but about how we all flourish when women and men come together and view each other with respect as equal partners. It is not a coincidence that the donors here from Denmark, Norway and Sweden and from my own country the UK are from countries which are amongst the most progressive in the world in respect of women's equality.
So I am sure that with all these three groups working together on this Adolescent Girls Initiative we can achieve not just equal treatment for girls and women across the world but a better world for all and I feel privileged to have been asked to play a part in it.
For a fuller report on the launch of the AGI see Women of the World