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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to Women's Roundtable
December 8, 2000, Cape Town, South Africa
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Mr. Ambassador, Gayle, it is great to be with the Lewis family, truly, truly good friends.

I want to thank you all for getting up and coming to have breakfast with me. It is really a pleasure to meet with you. And as I travel around the world, one of my favorite meetings wherever I go are meetings with women leaders, because in the course of this I think we all discover the tremendous amount that we have in common.

One of my really good friends is your Foreign Minister Zuma. We belong to a very exclusive group. It is the exclusive group of women foreign ministers and there are now 14 of us. When I started as Secretary of State there were seven, and so our numbers are expanding. We meet once a year officially at the United Nations General Assembly and trade experiences and we always do something useful, which is to work on a substantive issue. Last year we worked on trafficking in women and this year we signed a declaration to the Secretary General on HIV/AIDS and we spent a lot of time talking about the availability of medicines and how things work. So we have developed an immediate camaraderie and made a deal actually, that we would take each other's phone calls no matter what. And so we get quite a lot done and then women foreign ministers always go to the head of the telephone line as far as I'm concerned.

I have tried in the past four years to do everything I could to help women break through barriers and help others to create political and economic opportunities for women. And I think that in the various meetings that I have with women throughout the world, what we really stress is how to get women access to education, health care and the skills necessary to support themselves and their families. It is evident wherever I go that women do most of the work and so, I think that it is very important that there is equitable reward and also access to higher level positions.

I think there is no question that in South Africa you all have made tremendous progress in cultivating civil society and the institutions of democracy and for that I really do congratulate you. But you know better than I do how much more work there really is to be done and I have in every one of my speeches, I have this line which is that women remain disproportionately poor, undereducated and underemployed while suffering too much hardship, too much violence and now the agony of HIV/AIDS and that is a story that is true in whatever country you go to, and it is disproportionate.

What I had hoped today, and I hope we can really - as soon as all these people leave (laughter) - have a nice very open discussion about realities and goals and talk about the evolving political power of women in South Africa, and how women are faring generally here, and what are the greatest challenges and opportunities that you face and what is the appropriate role of government and business and South Africa's friends abroad in helping you on your agenda and whether women have really broken through to every sector of society or whether there still are places you do not have even a minimal opportunity. And then I think what is being done to support those who are fighting the twin epidemics of disease and violence against women and what can be done to help more on that.

These are really critical issues that I care deeply about, the United States cares deeply about, and I look forward very much to having a very open and frank discussion about all these issues. As I said, I think I learn more in my women's meetings wherever they are, whether in El Salvador or Uzbekistan or wherever, than in any of the other meetings, because I think we, women have an ability to cut through the junk as quickly as possible.

So, thank you all very much and I now look forward to hearing from you.

[End of Document]
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