Today, our heart goes out to the courageous women of Ukraine.
I want to tell you:
We see you. We stand with you.
We are doing all we can in the humanitarian field. But also in our resolute message to President Putin to stop this horrendous war.
And I want to tell the courageous women of Russia, and of Belarus:
We see you, too. This war is not your war. It’s your sons who have to fight a battle they didn’t choose. We applaud you – the many women of Russia and Belarus who are protesting against this unacceptable aggression. Some of you are young. Some of you are grandmothers who have seen war before. And still, you are taking to the streets, risking your own freedom to stand up for justice and peace. I am humbled by your courage.
Courage and determination, that’s what I see when I look at you, our panelists, today.
“I was just a housewife”. That’s how you, Sviatlana, once put it.
When you took over your husband’s campaign after he was arrested, the Belarusian leadership tried to belittle you. A woman would be too weak to run the country, they said. I have to say that I have rarely met a person stronger than you. Running for president, with your husband in prison – and not being able to answer your children’s question: “When will our father be back?” It is beyond my imagination. All of you here are leading the battle for your cause with great Determination.
For women, this battle requires extra courage. Men also fight for freedom. Fathers also worry about their children. But women have to deal with an extra dimension.
- Women often face the blatant sexism that I just referred to in your case, Sviatlana.
- Women also face online harassment and hate speech to a much higher extent than men.
- Around the world, women face not only stigmatisation but also exclusion and abuse.
- One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner or a stranger. We cannot and must not accept that.
Every one of us is entitled to all our rights and freedoms – regardless of whether we are a man, a woman, or how we define our gender. That’s our commitment in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And that is exactly why Germany pursues a feminist foreign policy. And as long as gender equality and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not a given for everybody and every woman in the world, we will pursue this feminist foreign policy.
Many people have asked me what this actually means. People ask: Will only women be allowed to run the country? No: it’s the exact opposite. A feminist foreign policy is not about excluding, but about including. It’s not about hearing fewer voices, but MORE voices. And: it’s not a “women’s issue”. Because it benefits all of us!
If half of the population are unable to participate as equals, no society can reach its full potential. And if half of the world’s population is excluded, we cannot achieve sustainable peace and security. When I was at the contact line in Ukraine told me: “Unless women are safe, no one is safe in society.” A feminist foreign policy is not a topic; it is a comprehensive approach to our foreign policy.
It is quite simply about three Rs:
- and Resources.
On rights – We must address violations where and when they occur.
As you know all too well, that is particularly the case during war and conflicts, when women and girls are exposed – to sexual violence, to domestic abuse, to trafficking.
Crises are not gender-blind.
And since women are the most affected, we need to address their needs and rights through our policies. And: we need to give them a say when we are developing our solutions!
That’s our second R: representation.
Studies show clearly that peace processes, for instance, have proven to be more effective and more sustainable if they are more inclusive. Better representation benefits all of us.
Resources. Our third R.
We need to ensure that women have access to the means they need – finances, health care. But we also need to allocate enough of our own resources to promote gender equality.
That brings me to my final Point:
We need to be better at critically assessing our own actions. We need to be better listeners.
That’s why I am here today. And that’s why I invited you all today: to listen.
In the spirit of including, not excluding, of hearing MORE voices, not fewer, and of elevating those who matter – whether they are housewives, grandmothers, politicians or activists.