Remarks by Vice President Harris at the “In Her Hands” Launch
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Please have a seat. Good afternoon.
Laurene, thank you for that introduction and all of the work that you and Emerson have been doing over so many years that is about addressing root causes and doing it in a way that is informed by a sense of humanity and a collective sense of purpose. Thank you for that.
And I also want to thank Christy Turlington Burns. And I am grateful to you both and to the Partnership for Central America, the Chamber of Commerce, and everyone here today for all of your efforts. And I see the Ambassador who is here. I want to thank him as well.
When I began work on the root causes of migration from northern Central America, I approached the task with a few basic principles: one, my belief — I think our shared belief — that people don’t want to leave home. And when they do, it is usually for one of two reasons: They are fleeing harm, or they cannot address the basic needs of themselves or their family.
Two, I know, as a devout public servant, that to address this issue, government cannot do it alone. We must partner with the private sector and civil society to address what we know can be addressed through collaboration and coordination. So, that is the spirit and the foundation of the work that we are doing in the Call to Action.
Together, our collective expertise, resources, and vision can and already has begun to create an echo system of opportunity.
Three, in terms of our approach, we believe that to have a meaningful impact, we must also, in addition to addressing the economic status and condition of the region, we must also address corruption, we must promote the rule of law, we must focus with a priority on reducing violence, and we must empower women.
These are the guiding principles that inform our administration’s Root Causes Strategy and our engagement with our neighbors — with our neighbors — in the Western Hemisphere — a hemisphere, a region which is more interconnected and more independent than ever before.
So, a year ago, I issued the Call to Action and encouraged companies and civil society to work with us to deepen a commitment in Northern Central America and to expand collaboration.
This Call to Action is creating new jobs and opportunities for the people within those countries. These investments are also a good example of what our policies beyond our shore can do to benefit the people within the United States. Because we know the American people will benefit from stable and prosperous neighbors. And when we provide economic opportunity for people in Central America, we address an important driver of migration.
Which brings me to today: I am pleased to announce that since the launch of our Call to Action last year, we, together, have generated more than $3.2 billion dollars of investment in the region. (Applause.)
And you applaud because we all know that is a substantial sum as the beginning of this approach. This investment is on track to generate, as a result of what we have done so far, tens of thousands of jobs, investments in sectors such as agriculture and textiles.
This investment also means that more than 10 million people will have access to banking services and credit within that region, which is important if we are to fuel the capacity, the entrepreneurial vision, and desires of the people in that region.
In addition to all of this work, 2 million people so far have already been connected to the Internet, with millions more to follow — all part of a holistic approach to what are the needs and the needs that can be met in that region.
In context, when we put that $3.2 billion dollars in context, consider that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have a total population size of about 30 million people.
A $3.2 billion investment will then have a direct impact on the quality of life for people throughout that region.
In fact, earlier today — and I see them here — I met with a group of women leaders and women entrepreneurs who have been leading in some of this work and some of whom have already benefitted from our Call to Action initiatives.
And their stories — I wish you all could’ve been in the room — incredible stories. Incredible stories of self-determination, of vision, of passion and commitment and courage.
So, today, to build on that success, we are announcing the next phase of the Call to Action, which includes prioritizing women — a forward-looking vision for the region requires understanding that women are drivers of economic growth, wherever they are.
So, today, with that spirit, we are announcing an initiative that has been named “In Her Hands” — an initiative within our Call to Action that will empower, protect, and train women in Northern Central America.
I think we all agree and I strongly believe: When women succeed, all of society benefits. And that is the work that we have done, guided by that principle, with our Root Causes Strategy.
As part of this, the companies and organizations who are present today have made new commitments to digitize women-owned businesses in the region, to connect women to the banking system, to help more women participate in the agriculture industry, to train women for coding and cybersecurity, and to elevate women within companies.
In addition, our administration’s strategy includes partnering with civil society to reduce gender-based violence in the region.
These two priorities must go hand in hand. Because we know empowering women economically is not only about giving them a job; it’s about improving their quality of life.
In fact — and a lot of folks here know: When women don’t have financial stability — if they don’t have financial stability, the data shows us that they are more likely to stay in abusive relationships. A lack of opportunity continues a cycle of violence. However, when women have economic opportunity, we see a reduction in domestic violence, a reduction in sexual violence, a reduction in gender-based violence.
So, today, in addition to announcing the next phase of the Call to Action, we will bring together the private sector, the non-profit community, and the public sector to coordinate our strategy to reinforce one another’s work and to ensure that collectively we are creating an ecosystem of opportunity for women in the region.
In discussions over the course of this afternoon, you will hear from panelists who will speak to all of these topics. And what it all comes down to is this: When you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of families, of her community, and of our entire hemisphere.
So, thank you all again for being here and for contributing to this effort. We have achieved a lot, but it is only the beginning. And we are committed to seeing this through with all of you.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)