Ambassador McCarthy’s Remarks for International Women’s Day
Ambassador Michael McCarthy joined President Weah, Government of Liberia ministers, and other members of the international community at the National Observance of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021. He spoke about the importance of gender equality and access to education for girls and the need to put an end to sexual- and gender-based violence. His entire speech is below.
His Excellency, George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia
Hon. Williametta Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection
Other Officials of the Government of Liberia Members of the Diplomatic Corps Development Partners
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to join you today for the celebration of International Women’s Day, under the national theme, “Women in Leadership: Breaking Down Barriers in the Dispensation of a COVID-19 World.”
You could not have chosen a more appropriate theme. Like women in many parts of the world, Liberian women are disproportionately affected by the secondary impact of COVID-19, including the economic uncertainties created by the disease. They are the small farmers unable to farm or sell their produce in local markets because of COVID-19. They are the cookshop and restaurant owners, the hair salon operators, and the neighborhood “waiter market” sellers who lost customers and income because of the negative economic impact. And, unlike many of us, they have no other sources of income – no salaries from government or private sector jobs on which they can fall back to support their families.
They deserve our special attention as we design and implement policies to counter the pandemic’s broad social and economic impacts. And this is what we have tried to do in creating United States assistance to Liberia’s COVID-19 response.
Our cash transfers program, for example, specifically targets market women, farmers, and other vulnerable groups, providing them monthly payments of $50 for three months – money they can use to invest in their small business, pay school fees, or meet other needs. And then there is our school feeding program ensures their children are fed hot meals when they attend school.
But the fact that women are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 is a stark reminder of the need to do more – the need to knock down the entrenched barriers to progress for women empowerment; to uproot the structural impediments to gender parity that make women and girls so vulnerable to shocks like the pandemic. And there is perhaps no more significant impediment to achieving gender equality than the deeply rooted cultural norms and practices that favor the education of men and boys over the education of girls and women.
The facts and figures tell us what we stand to gain when we give women and girls equal access to education: A child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to reach his or her fifth birthday. Women with some education enjoy increased agricultural productivity and income than their uneducated counterparts, and they are less likely to be victims of sexual- and gender- based violence.
The conclusion to be drawn here is obvious: Education is a powerful game-changer for women and girls. It is an indispensable tool for their social, economic, and political empowerment. It is key to ending the scourge of inter-generational poverty. This is why the United States’ development assistance to Liberia attaches particular importance to educating women and girls. Our current emphasis is on increasing access to education for out-of-school children and adolescent girls between the ages of 8-15, providing them safe learning environments where they can acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills and ultimately transition to formal schooling.
Mr. President, distinguished ladies and gentlemen: The world has come a long way since the first International Women’s Day was celebrated precisely 120 years ago today.
Over those 120 years, the annual celebration of this day has served to remind us of certain undeniable truths: Respect for women’s rights should not
and does not come at the expense of men’s rights; everyone, including men and boys, has a role to play in the fight for gender equality; and achieving gender balance means more than simply expressing ideas about equal treatment of people under the law. It is also about how communities, societies, and countries can prosper and benefit by fully tapping the energy, talents, and abilities of all their people – women, girls, boys, and men.
We celebrate those who embody this fight for gender equality. That includes the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage awards hosted by Secretary Antony Blinken this afternoon. It also has our own Embassy Women of Courage being recognized on our Facebook page, including Minister Saydee-Tarr for her outspokenness and commitment to ending sexual and gender-based violence.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, let us, therefore, recommit ourselves to doing all we can to give Liberian women and girls equal access to the rights and privileges enjoyed by men and boys; to unlock doors to opportunities that have been shut to them for so long, and to draw on their immense abilities and resources so that they are active players in Liberia’s journey to self- reliance.
And rest assured that as we work together to do so, you can count on the continued support of the United States. We’ve been here. We are still here, working together.
The Liberian National Security Agency opens new U.S. Government-funded HQ
On April 2, 2021, Ambassador Michael McCarthy joined Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, National Security Agency Director James Pearson II, and other dignitaries to cut the ribbon on the brand-new headquarters of the Liberian National Security Agency.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony,
Ambassador McCarthy remarked, “One of the lessons that have repeatedly been underscored is the importance of objective information and intelligence, free of political interference and influence, for effective government decision and policy-making … The U.S. Government has made this significant investment because
ensuring peace and security requires accurate, timely, and objective information….Having the whole picture, the whole truth – with all facts and context understood – can prevent conflict in advance, can help respond to crises, can help with mediation efforts, and can ensure confidence in decision-making.”
Ambassador McCarthy Hands Over COVID-19 Testing Supplies to Ministry of Health
On Thursday, March 11, 2021, Ambassador Michael McCarthy handed over COVID-19 laboratory testing supplies to the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Infectious Disease Detection and Surveillance project, through funding from USAID, is supporting the Government of Liberia to accelerate COVID-19 detection efforts by supplying PCR testing commodities. The PCR test is the “gold standard” test for diagnosing COVID-19 because it’s the most accurate and reliable test.
At the event, Ambassador McCarthy remarked, “The surest way to counter potential epidemics or pandemics is to stop an outbreak where it starts. To do this, Liberia needs effective disease detection and surveillance to quickly identify infectious diseases when they occur and monitor the development of an outbreak. Detection and surveillance are the keys to prevent, respond and contain infectious diseases effectively.”
The donation includes 2,000 specimen collection swabs, extraction reagents for the automated and manual system for 4,000 tests, PCR master-mix, PCR calibration, reaction plates, and dried swab
pre-treatment buffer enable detection of SARS- CoV-2. This virus causes the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. The donation will allow the National Public Health Reference Laboratory to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic efficiently. Ambassador McCarthy concluded the handover by saying, “Our collective task is to ensure that Liberia continues to be a safe travel destination that responds timely and effectively to emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. The United States, through USAID’s Global Health Security Agenda, will continue to be your strong partner in this endeavor.”