Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Participates as Special Guest

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated International Women’s Day with a photography exhibition held at The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington D.C on March 8, 2005. The exhibition entitled, “Rebuilding Hope” was a portrayal of women’s contributions to rebuild their communities in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Tsunami affected nations in South and Southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka. Among the honored guests who attended the event were Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Minister of State for Women’s Affairs for Afghanistan Masooda Jala, Minister of State for Women’s Affairs for Iraq Narmin Otham, Administrator of USAID Andrew S. Natsios, Ambassador Said Jawad of Afghanistan, Ambassador Soemadi Brotodiningrat of Indonesia and representing Sri Lanka was Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe.

The exhibit also documented USAID’s work in the Tsunami affected areas in Sri Lanka including temporary work programs for women that involved re-opening of schools and education on water safety. Secretary Rice addressing the attendees said, “after the natural disasters of the tsunami, it is the human spirit that triumphs in all of these. And as I was walking by and I was looking at the faces in this exhibition, what you see is the face of the human spirit”.

Administrator Natsios speaking at the event added, “let us also remember the women whose lives were touched so tragically by the recent Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting Tsunamis. Families, homes, livelihoods and entire communities were washed away. Yet I saw with my own eyes how many women were putting their lives back together, with the compassionate support of the American people”.

Ambassador Subasinghe commenting on the status of women in Sri Lankan society on International Women’s Day said, “women in Sri Lanka have traditionally been a strong force in the country’s cultural, social and political context. This is borne out by the highest political offices that women have occupied in post- independent Sri Lanka.”

Equal opportunity for women has been a tradition in Sri Lankan culture and society prior to the country gaining independence in 1948. Sri Lanka has the unique honor of being the first nation in the world to have elected a female Prime Minister in 1960. This tradition of women reaching the highest level of public service is further attested to by the current Head of State, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

08 March 2005


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