Remarks by USAID Country Director Mikaela Meredith at the Gender Equality Regional Forum

Your Excellency President Meta, Speaker Ruci, honorable guests: I feel privileged to be here this morning to address you.  I am here because both Americans and Albanians share the belief that, regardless of gender, all people are equally articulate, brave, creative, and intelligent, and because both nations share the view that, regardless of gender, all people deserve equal opportunity in life.  Moreover, as part of the U.S National Security Strategy recognizes, inclusive societies are safer societies.

It also recognizes that inclusive societies are also more prosperous. They prosper because inclusive societies nurture and grow the complete pool of human talent.  They succeed by enabling the population to maximize innovation, maximize production – frankly, to maximize at every available opportunity. They improve both collective and individual decision-making by considering diverse perspectives and experiences.  Every society owes this kind of success to itself and its future generations.  In an increasingly competitive world, failing to harness the potential of all citizens and failure to make the best decisions possible only leads to untapped potential.  The competitive advantage of inclusive societies seems obvious.

Why then, are there forums like this?

Sometimes, whether it is in respect of gender equality, or other issues, we find that what a society believes and how a society behaves – the ways in which it makes and enforces its rules and laws – falls short of achieving its promise.  Somewhere along the line, achievements for the greater good are lost to individual self-interest or indifference to old ways, ways we all agree were never right.

Forums like this help us recognize the work that still needs to be done, while being inspired by what has been achieved.  Collectively, I ask you to fight to ensure that the goal of gender equality is reflected in the structure of Albania – especially in respect of the rules that govern education and health, and how those rules are enforced.  Individually, I ask you to be critical of your own awareness of gender equality in society, to think about how you can restructure your lives and your businesses to ensure that you recognize talent and provide opportunities to all, regardless of gender.

A more inclusive Albania will be a more prosperous Albania, a more proud Albania.  I recognize that the United States and Albania both are still travelling on the journey to complete equality.  There are miles to travel and work to be done.  But, as Mother Teresa said: “Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.”

Thank you.