DC Celebration of Women Diplomats
June 7, 2012 | Washington, DC

Washington, DC—On June 7, 2012, Women's Foreign Policy Group held its annual Celebration of Women Diplomats at the Residence of Ambassador Claudia Fritsche of Liechtenstein. The program and reception honored the achievements of women ambassadors and deputy chiefs of mission to the United States. Speakers included US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer and the ambassadors from Bahrain, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Finland, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Senegal. The organization also recognized deputy chiefs of mission from Romania, Portugal, Mexico, Sweden, Canada, and Thailand.

Melanne Verveer, the first Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues, opened the program by sharing the stories of women that she met on her recent trips to the Middle East and Burma. She expressed hope for post-Arab Spring Tunisia, saying that "the Tunisians are probably in the best place, the way they did their zipper system in the election, for the constituent assembly has brought in large numbers of women now." Ambassador Verveer also anticipates a positive future for Libyan women, but expressed concern regarding the situation of women in Egypt. She said that despite the political instability, women are making "great strides."

Several of the women Ambassadors shared comments on women’s leadership in their home countries. Ambassador Claudia Fritsche mentioned that, although women in Liechtenstein did not have voting rights until 1984, Liechtenstein now prioritizes women’s empowerment "in the context of world peace and security" and 24% of their parliamentarians and 35% of their diplomats are women. Ambassadors Houda Nonoo of Bahrain and Fatima de Viega of Cape Verde both cited the growing numbers of politically active and influential women in their countries. They acknowledged that these numbers are still not as high as they should be (14 out of 55 members of the Upper and Lower Houses in Bahrain are female, and 17% of politicians in Cape Verde are women), but that they have seen improvement overall. On a more personal note, Ambassador Purificacion Angue Ondo of Equatorial Guinea told an inspiring story of being imprisoned and exiled from her native country, simply because of her "controversial" ideas. She spoke of how she now travels to different villages throughout her country, meeting with women and making them aware of their rights and helping them to articulate themselves.

Ambassador Renee Jones-Bos of the Netherlands praised the women diplomatic community in the United States and emphasized how the women diplomats have been able to cross cultural and regional boundaries and work together, which has made them a strong and united group. Ambassadors Marina Kaljurand of Estonia, Fatou Danielle Diagne of Senegal, Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland, and La Celia Prince of St. Vincent and the Grenadines also spoke of the sisterhood they feel amongst the female diplomatic community here in DC. Ambassador Koukko-Ronde emphasized the advantages of incorporating more women into the political and professional aspects of society, claiming that companies that employ women "are making just better results…so you can calculate that it pays off." Ambassador Diagne stated her conviction that "women can change the world" by starting at home and working outwards to society.

Ambassador Elena Poptodorova of Bulgaria described women's advancement as an "irreversible" forward march, stating that "philosophically, the world is different already [because women] are not only trying to arrive at positions of power or responsibility or of importance; what [women] are trying to do is change an ages-long mentality" and that there are increasingly more cracks in the metaphorical "glass ceiling."
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US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Issues
Melanne Verveer addresses WFPG members and guests

  Patricia Ellis, Ambassador Verveer, and Board Member
Theresa Loar with the Ambassadors of Equatorial Guinea,
Cape Verde, Finland, Estonia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines,
Senegal, the Netherlands, Bahrain, and Liechtenstein

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Host Ambassador Claudia Fritsche of
Liechtenstein welcomes guests

  WFPG President Patricia Ellis opens the program

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Ambassador Fritsche and Patricia Ellis

  Ambassador Verveer, Theresa Loar, and
Deputy Chief of Mission Deborah Lyons

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Patricia Ellis and Theresa Loar with Deputy Chief of
Mission Nantana Sivakua of Thailand

  Ambassador Fritsche, Ambassador Verveer, and Patricia Ellis

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Ambassador Verveer gives remarks

  Ambassador Renee Jones-Bos of the Netherlands

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Ambassador Elena Poptodorova of Bulgaria

  Ambassador Fatima Veiga of Cape Verde

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Ambassador La Celia Aritha Prince of Saint Vincent
and the Grenadines

  Ambassador Marina Kaljurand of Estonia

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Ambassador Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo of Bahrain

  Ambassador Fatou Danielle Diagne of Senegal

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Ambassador Purificacion Angue Ondo
of Equatorial Guinea

  Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde of Finland

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Guests listen to remarks

  Deputy Chief of Mission Deborah Lyons of Canada

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Patricia Ellis, Theresa Loar, and Ambassador Verveer
with the Deputy Chiefs of Mission of Romania, Thailand, Canada,
Sweden, Mexico, and Portugal

  Patricia Ellis recognizes Deputy Chief of Mission
Mabel Gomez-Oliver of Mexico during the program

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Deputy Chiefs of Mission Steluta Arhire of Romania and
Karin Höglund of Sweden
  Theresa Loar with Ambassadors Renee Jones-Bos,
La Celia Aritha Prince, and Fatima Veiga