Keynote speech by the President of the House of Representatives of Cyprus, Mrs Annita Demetriou at the 38th world association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Conference 2023
Thursday 27 July 2023, European University of Cyprus, Nicosia, 9:00 am
It is with great pleasure that I meet you here today, as it is my privilege to welcome you all, girls and women from all around the world, to our beautiful island for the 38th World Organisation of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Conference.
I am deeply honoured and proud that this significant event is taking place right here in Cyprus for the first time in the Association’s long history. My warmest congratulations should go to the Girl Guides Association of Cyprus for their meticulous organization and warm hospitality in hosting this remarkable gathering.
Dear ladies, dear friends,
Αll of us here today share something in common: we all dream and strive for a better future and a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. It is this dream that also propelled me at a young age towards active citizenship and, eventually led me into politics. Recognizing that change starts from within, I realized that by actively engaging in the political sphere, I could contribute to shaping a more just and inclusive society, where every individual has equal opportunities and rights.
Driven by this vision, as soon as I assumed office, the issues, concerning women, gender equality and the eradication of gender stereotypes, became a priority on my agenda. In this regard I am proud that we spearheaded the adoption of a law amendment that recognizes "femicide" as a criminal offence per se in a wider effort to ensure the effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. We have also worked towards legislations that criminalize sexism, harassment and stalking. Beyond the borders of Cyprus, the House of Representatives passed a resolution in solidarity with women in Iran, standing with them in their fight for equality and justice. Following the appalling events in Ukraine, the Women Speakers of Parliaments of the European Union, met in Warsaw in April 2022 where we explored ways to provide meaningful assistance to refugee women and children from Ukraine. On this perspective I have personally proposed that in the context of Parliamentary diplomacy the meetings of Women Speakers of Parliaments of the European Union should be established on a regular basis as we must continue raising awareness on the issues of gender inequality, institutional culture and the way in which women are portrayed publicly.
However, the importance of women's voluntary movements and their pivotal role in women's empowerment cannot be overstated. This is the driving force in challenging societal norms, dismantling gender-based discrimination and advancing the rights of women worldwide. As a young politician and the first female President of the Parliament of Cyprus myself, I could not but highlight the crucial role that voluntary movements play in bridging the gap between society and policy-makers.
I therefore congratulate the exceptional work and achievements of the World Association of Girls Guides Association and Girl Scouts and its Member Organisations, as I also congratulate each and every one of you representing your Member Organizations for have been so firmly committed to women empowerment, to education and to leadership development. Volunteering and active citizenship form the backbone of your actions and you have shown us in practice, the power of unity in diversity by creating spaces where girls from different backgrounds can come together, support one another, and make a difference in their communities.
Dear ladies, dear friends,
To me you are all a true source of inspiration and I firmly state that under my presidency, the House of Representatives of Cyprus and I personally will stand by women. Throughout my life and my political career, I have encountered challenges, difficulties and even faced questioning.
But let me tell you, these experiences have only served to foster my resilience and determination and being a woman has been but the source of my strength. I strongly believe in the words of Sandra O'Connor , who said, "As women achieve power, the barriers will start to fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we'll all be better off for it."
Through these endeavors, we have made significant progress, but there is still a long way to go. Women remain underrepresented in politics and leadership positions. In some parts of the world, they lack access to education, while in others, they are victims of violence and social oppression, facing patriarchal stereotypes.
As of that, I stand before you to deliver you a message: we need you to advocate for more action, we need to hear your voices, we need you to support us in our efforts to change mindsets and to advance legislations and policies.
Dear women of the world,
The future will be truly ours, when we collectively work towards shaping it. No significant change can be achieved without the collaboration, cooperation, and collective action of individuals, communities and organisations.
Through volunteerism and collective effort, we can dream and help others to dream and we can act, making substantive steps towards a better world. Ultimately, we will be able to see young women and girls lead the way for progress and become the leaders of tomorrow.
I am certain that this Conference will be a great opportunity to reflect upon your milestones and collective actions, to create bonds and above all to set new targets and goals.
My best wishes to all of you.
(Keynote speech as relayed by the House of Representatives)
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