Opinion piece on International Women’s Day by the U.S. Chargé d’affaires ad interim

Newsroom 08/03/2013 | 07:38

Duane Butcher, Chargé d’affaires ad interim, celebrates the International Women’s Day by sending a message:

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day emerged out of the labor movements at the turn of the 20th century as women advocated for the right to vote and hold public office and fought against workplace discrimination. We have come very far since then, both in Romania and in the United States. Today we recognize the progress that has been achieved and the courageous women who have made a difference in their countries, communities, and families.

I have had the honor of serving in Romania twice, first arriving in Bucharest in 2000. Returning a decade later in 2011 with a fresh perspective, I immediately recognized the changes that had taken place here. Without discounting the lingering economic downturn affecting the world economy, I can tell you Romania has noticeably improved since the turn of the 21st century. It’s important to remember how much things have changed in the last decade and since the Revolution. I don’t think I need to quote economic statistics to support this. The change is tangible, something one can see and feel. It is visible in the growth of shops, restaurants, and activity and palpable in the increased energy present in Romania. Women have played an undeniable role in making the country more vibrant in a relatively short period of time.

Through my work at the U.S. Embassy, I have the privilege of working with women who are leaders in their fields in government, large corporations, and nongovernmental organizations. In my travels and in the course of my daily life in Romania, I interact with women confidently running schools and hospitals, and every kind of small business. It’s easy to see that the economic empowerment of women leads to success. This is certainly true in Romania where there are more than 500,000 female entrepreneurs, including business owners and the self-employed, according to the Romanian National Institute of Statistics.

As Secretary of State John Kerry has written, “…the world’s most pressing economic, social and political problems cannot be solved without the full participation of women.” In Romania, women have been at the forefront of efforts to improve people’s lives and to unlock Romania’s true potential by pushing for judicial reform, an improved business climate, a better medical system, and a cleaner Romania whose beautiful landscapes are not destroyed by illegal clear cutting. One such initiative is the social campaign “Let’s Do It, Romania!” Through the use of social media, two young women mobilized 500,000 volunteers across the country to spend a day picking up trash. This was the largest number of volunteers gathered by any of the 18 countries participating in the 2012 international clean up movement. They proved the skeptics wrong by showing what determined women can accomplish.

Even with the progress that has been achieved in both of our countries, there is much more to be done to ensure that women realize their full social and economic potential. For this reason, expanding economic opportunities for women is a goal of both U.S. domestic and foreign policy. In Romania, the U.S. Embassy will do its part by sponsoring a women’s entrepreneurship event early next month. My colleagues from the Embassy’s economic, public diplomacy and commercial sections are working with Romanian partners to organize this event, which will bring together business students, aspiring and established entrepreneurs to network, share expertise, and learn about government initiatives to spur entrepreneurship. We hope this event will inspire women entrepreneurs, strengthen the already strong relations between our countries, and commemorate the women leaders of the past who have made today’s celebration possible.

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