International Women’s Day 2023: Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the United Nations
By Cynthia Efird, Member, Foreign Policy & National Security Task Force
On March 8, 2023, International Women’s Day, one of our most influential US diplomats, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Representative to the United Nations, led US efforts to mark the day. That week was also the beginning of the 67th Session of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield led the US delegation and explained to the world the Biden Administration’s efforts to stop digital harassment and secure gender equality.
Although not as well-known as she should be in this country, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has had a continuing and important impact on US foreign policy and played a critical worldwide leadership role for more than three decades, primarily in the State Department, but also in academic and private capacities. She served as Director General of the 70,000 State employees, led all diplomacy in Africa for 4 years, and served in multiple ambassadorships during her career.
She was one of eight children raised by a mother who was able to finish her high school education only after making sure that her children had their diplomas, getting her GED when she was in her 50s.
All of her professional and personal experiences make Amb. Thomas-Greenfield a respected voice for the Biden Administration and an international leader for improving the status of women in the world. She consistently has pointed to the violence and oppression of women and girls throughout the world; especially now in Iran, Afghanistan, Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine, and elsewhere. She is also clear that women’s rights in the United States have recently lost ground.
In her opening words to the UN Commission she declared, “I will never shy away from the fact that we face our own challenges in the United States. The right to make intensely personal choices free from the interference of politicians has been stripped away from millions and millions of women in the United States. I have traveled the globe advocating for women’s rights, and it pains me to know that so many in my own country want to undo fundamental rights. But let me be clear: the Biden Administration remains deeply committed to protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls at home and around the world, including at the UN and in our foreign assistance…. There is no doubt that digital innovation can empower women, and it can open up educational and economic opportunities, and we need to extend these technologies to all. But we also need to defend against widespread attacks.”
The Biden Administration in this, as in so many areas, is playing a leading international role. It has established the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse to secure the international cooperation necessary to stop digital attacks. The Administration has also created a task force to address online harassment
and abuse. Not content with just calling attention to the problem, this task force is creating hotlines, conducting surveys, and funding research centers to counter digital violence. Last month, the White House Gender Policy Council released its first progress report to President Biden on the US National Strategy on Gender Equality and Equity. This year, it will release the first-ever US National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.
Recent studies of the psychological damage caused by on-line bullying and resulting depression and suicide among teen-aged girls emphasize the importance of all this critical work. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has been key to the national effort and US leadership in the international campaign.
She summed up her hope for future progress: “Let us continue to educate. Let us continue to inspire. Let us continue to be role models for this next generation. And let’s do everything we can to lift up women and girls across this country but also around the world.”