Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick Remarks at the Inaugural Ceremony of YSEALI Women’s Leadership Academy

My Respects to:

  • Sunita Caminha, UN Women Head of Office
  • Munkhtuya Altangerel, UNDP Resident Representative
  • Armando da Costa, Director General, Secretary of State for Gender Equality and Inclusion.

Good morning everyone.

It is truly an honor to be part of the first YSEALI Leadership Academy in Timor-Leste. Over the past few years since Timor-Leste was incorporated into the U.S. Department of State’s Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative we have seen Timorese membership grow to about 2,000 members. We have also sent over 50 young Timorese to the United States and countries around Southeast Asia to work with their counterparts developing programs that address the global challenges we all face.

Silvia Correia de Araújo, the leader of Timor-Leste’s YSEALI Women Network was one of those individuals who traveled to Jakarta with two other Timorese young women in June 2019 to participate in the YSEALI Women’s Leadership Academy.

Silvia has since then conducted several programs in Timor-Leste bringing young women together to support each other’s professional and personal development. She has also been a strong advocate for the environment by leading tree planting and water conservation programs. Silvia and many of her fellow YSEALI members here today are the future of Timor-Leste. They are innovative, smart and strong leaders taking action to improve their communities.

During the global COVID-19 pandemic we have seen Timorese youth leaders rise to address this unprecedented challenge. As the pandemic spread around the world, our Embassy here in Dili was approached by several YSEALI members who wanted to take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. With funding from our Public Affairs Section these young leaders developed programs and were able to reach over 600 families with timely and important health information in low-income communities.

This YSEALI Women’s Leadership Academy aims to build on these successes, by empowering more women to take leadership roles in their communities and build their careers. In the United States, women have achieved greater respect in politics, business and society only because women worked together to advance their rights. But there is still much work to be done. Women in the U.S. continue to advocate for changes to legislation that strengthen human and women’s rights and advance other issues such as environmental conservation, racial equality and freedom of religion.

It is inspiring to see young Timorese women joining this program today and working towards goals that I believe women around the world share. I believe that the most important thing to remember is we women need to stand for ourselves and not be afraid to express our point of view. We need to see value in our own convictions and the work and ideas of other women. And we need to support each other, not compete with each other or tear each other down. We have a right to be heard and included in all aspects of political, economic and social life.

I congratulate you all for committing to join Silvia and the Women’s Leadership Academy team on this program. Listen to each other and speak up to let your voice be heard. I look forward to seeing you all become the next leaders of Timor-Leste!