Amata Speaks at Pacific Women’s Leadership Coalition Conference in RMI
Washington, DC – Tuesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata spoke at the inaugural Pacific Women’s Leadership Coalition Conference in Majuro Atoll, along with President Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan, at the invite of President Hilda Heine of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
From left, Taiwan President Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen, RMI President Dr. Hilda Heine, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, Congresswoman Aumua Amata.
The Conference was titled, Leading Women Making a Difference, and attendees represented more than 15 Pacific nations and territories. Congresswoman Amata’s remarks discussed the Pacific region; U.S. robust friendships, economic partnerships and trade connections, such as fishing and tourism; the ideals of democracy; and the most diverse Congress in U.S. history.
At the Pacific Women’s Leadership Conference in RMI.
Group picture at the PWLC Conference in Majuro Atoll.
Congresswoman Amata speaking, also shown across from her are Dr. Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, Director General of Forum Fisheries Agency; and Special Inclusion Advisor Melinia Mawadra of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
The text of her speech is as follows:
“Talofa, thank you. It’s a special honor to be here, at this Conference which recognizes the empowerment of Pacific women. A generation ago, I’m confident that a Pacific women’s leadership conference would not have had quite so many of us!
I’ve been privileged to travel much of the world, and without doubt, I’ve seen great advancements for women in my lifetime. Wherever I go, I meet rising women leaders in business, and in communities; more women in military leadership, and in government.
That sentiment is also personified by the fact that I’m here in this country at the invite of a national leader: President Hilda Heine. And that also speaking here is the democratically elected leader of Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen. I’m personally privileged to call these Pacific leaders my friends. More importantly, the United States maintains robust friendships with these important partners, and many others represented here today.
We have much more in common than the surface facts – that we’re women elected to leadership, or even that we represent beautiful island places in the Pacific – We also share something more important. That is, our deeply held values of freedom and democracy. These are the ideals that do more to advance the dreams and opportunities of women than any other political system on earth.
I can tell you by experience and conversation in the U.S. Congress, that our friends in Taiwan are known, appreciated and supported exactly as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently put it, to quote his words, they are: “A democratic success story, a reliable partner, and a force for good in the world.”
In the U.S., we are early in the 116th Congress. It is the most diverse in our history, including the most ever women elected to Congress, totaling about one/fourth of the membership of Congress. Why? Opportunity is a natural result of a free and open system. That’s why Taiwan also has strong female participation in public offices and a commendable record on women’s rights. Nearly 40 percent of their legislature, and a third of local offices are held by women.
In some of our island cultures, like my own, we hold very tightly to our traditions. That’s one of our strengths, and we should always hold on to the best of our Samoan Way. For instance, where I’m from, women can hold chiefly roles… but elected leadership for women hasn’t had such deep roots in our islands. That will change – not because of some outside pressure – but because of the remarkable young leaders that are being educated in our schools – as equals; trained in our Armed Forces – as equals; or studying in universities, just as many women as men. And this new generation of leaders will not be limited in their aspirations.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit, or even live in, a number of the places represented in this room today. I have wonderful youthful memories right here in the Marshall Islands.
Throughout the Pacific, we share many things about our cultures and lifestyles, as we share this great Ocean. We also share, in some way or another, a Pacific partnership with the United States – in American Samoa’s case we are actually part of the U.S., but others are Freely Associated States, and most here are friends, allies and trading partners in areas like fishing, tourism and other economic aspects.
I want to take a moment to thank you all. I didn’t name every place represented here, but I do know the U.S. values our many friends and neighbors, and that the U.S. takes great interest in the vast Pacific region.
One of these friends is New Zealand, which earlier this month endured an unspeakable sadness. I’ve been warmly welcomed in my visits to New Zealand – beautiful islands and wonderful people, and I know we all send them our love.
Let’s continue the progress for women by continuing the progress for everyone – in a world that values freedom, individuality, personal beliefs and expression.
I know this Conference will be a real encouragement and a success, and that we will leave this event inspired. I’m always so optimistic about the future, and I’ve never been more optimistic about the futures of women and girls. This Conference adds to my optimism, and it’s a delight to join you.
Fa’afetai tele lava.”
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