Deputy Chief of Mission Burger’s remarks at Gender Equality and Women’s Representation in the Public Sphere

March 30, 2022, 7:00 p.m.


As prepared

Good evening.  It is a great pleasure to be with you today.  Madame First Lady, Mrs. Georgievska, it’s an honor to see you and thank you for supporting this important initiative.  I’m also very pleased to join the audience in North Macedonia, where I served as a diplomat about a decade ago.

It is great to be here with my predecessor in Athens, our Ambassador to North Macedonia, Kate Byrnes, and to join forces to promote women’s empowerment, a vitally important priority of the U.S. government.

To May Zanni and all of the members of Women Act who are joining from Greece this evening, thank you for your partnership, and congratulations on the amazing work you’re doing to empower women to reach their potential across so many sectors.  May, it’s great to see you again and I look forward to your remarks.  And Lura Pollozhani, it is a pleasure to meet you virtually and to see so many participants from “Stella” joining us this evening.

I find it inspiring to be among women from both countries who work hard every day to promote gender equality and women’s representation in the public sphere.

I’m obligated to note that today’s event comes at a critical juncture in history when our region, and the entire world, watches in horror Putin’s unprovoked and bloody invasion of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

Among other things, this experience reminds us that, collectively, we have a responsibility to raise our voices in unity and protect the democratic values that we all hold so dear.

Throughout the conflict, we’ve witnessed the remarkable courage of Ukrainian women.  We have been awestruck by the bravery of these women who have gone above and beyond to protect their families through unimaginable risks and hardships.

On what brings us together tonight, let me sum it up by quoting a simple sentence from Vice President Harris: “The status of women is the status of democracy.”  I really believe this; in my almost 30 years as a diplomat, including places like Afghanistan, I’ve seen this again and again.  And I think we can agree that all three of our countries – Greece, North Macedonia, and the United States – all need to do better.

At this time of crisis, I couldn’t be prouder that Greece and North Macedonia, three years after Prespa, have built a solid foundation to advance all our shared goals for stability and prosperity in the region.  Women leaders in government, civil society, education, business, and other sectors are an important part of this.

I want to congratulate citizens in both countries for working closely on a variety of fields, from energy security and diversification, to law enforcement and good governance, to education and cultural exchanges.  Good relations between your two countries is more important now than ever.  And part of this is encouraging more women to be active in politics as well.

Supporting women’s engagement in politics, government, civil society and other areas has been important to Ambassador Pyatt and our entire team at the U.S. Embassy in Athens over the years.  This is something we will continue.  We’re committed to advancing this agenda with programs to bridge the gender gap in all sectors of social, political and economic activity.

Our “Women CANdidates” program with Women Act encourages and empowers more women to enter politics.  Another project called “The FEMpowerment Initiative” is another innovative program that focuses on women’s economic empowerment and employability.

Last September, we hosted TechCamp Thessaloniki, a hands-on training program for women entrepreneurs from Greece and throughout the Balkans, including North Macedonia.   It was inspiring for me to meet the young women who came to Thessaloniki for this program.  We’re also strengthening entrepreneurial skills for young women through our “Women in Tourism” initiative with MExoxo.  These are just a few examples of our support of women’s empowerment initiatives in Greece.

The benefits of accelerating women’s empowerment are substantial.  Like Vice President Harris was getting at, we know that nations in which women have equal opportunities and participate in leadership and decision-making roles are more likely to thrive.

We strongly believe in your potential, and I hope you will all make the best of the insights that today’s distinguished speakers will share with you.

I am confident that your participation in this program will not only contribute to advancing your leadership skills but will also help promote greater social change.  We look forward to supporting your success in the future!

Efcharisto poli, blagodoram mnogu, and falamenderit shume.