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Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa



Intervenção do Presidente da República no encontro com Embaixadoras e Deputadas membros da Comissão dos Negócios Estrangeiros
Belém Palace, 14 March 2016

Thank you, Madam Ambassador, for your kind words.

A few days ago, right after my inauguration as President of the Republic, in a welcome session by the diplomatic corps, I committed myself to meeting regularly with the groups of Ambassadors accredited in Portugal.

You should know that it gives me particular pleasure that the first meeting takes place with the group of Lady Ambassadors accredited in Lisbon. I say this because, as you all know, I am a President who is sensitive to the cause that unites you, and this could almost earn me the sobriquet, though I would not dare to go so far, of a feminist President.

In the first place, I am sensitive to the cause that unites you insofar as gender equality is, and always has been, at the top of my concerns. Indeed, it could not be otherwise. After all, I swore on a Constitution which has the principle of equality as one of its main pillars, which undertakes the promotion of equality between men and women as a major duty of State, which accepts the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of gender when it comes to access to political office. And, incidentally, in the words I used in the Assembly of the Republic, I expressly mentioned supporting the fight against discrimination of women.

But it is also because I am President of a country that has been at the forefront when it comes to defending women's rights in all international forums. Women's rights are human rights issues and these are matters that concern Portugal and that concern me.

Indeed, I believe that a President does not need to be a woman to care about women's rights. Women's rights should not be just a female concern, but a concern for everyone: men and women. Many men have, in their own way, developed more gender favourable and inclusive policies than many women have when exercising power, whether in Europe, the Americas, Africa or Asia.

Fortunately, I now have before me many Lady Ambassadors, representing different countries from the four corners of the world, with different religions. They bring a feminine slant to the performance of one of the noblest functions in the defence of States. With professionalism, competence, and spirit.

This means a lot. It means that they have had training on equal terms. It means that they have chosen diplomacy on equal terms. It means that they have undergone selection processes on equal terms. Women in diplomacy are synonymous with equal terms, and I am proud to have complete gender parity in my diplomatic advisory team.

Gender equality is a way of being. It’s not enough to just preach it. It’s not enough to just build a legislative framework. We need to achieve gender equality in our everyday lives. We need to feel that it is important.

The education of young girls, the empowerment of women in society are not, as Madeleine Albright said, “soft issues”. They are in fact “hard issues”, which can often make a difference between poverty and wealth, between radicalism and moderation, and even between war and peace.

Therefore, I would recall here a very brave young woman, who risked her life when she realised that she should defend access to education for girls. “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”, said Malala, when she was only 16 years of age.

It is education that is the touchstone for developing fairer societies, where being a woman is not synonymous with fewer opportunities. Without education, there is no empowerment of women. Without education, there is no level playing field. Without education, there are no women diplomats. Without education, power is not equitably shared between men and women.

And so I end as I began, telling you that I am, by moral duty and by my own sentiment, somehow almost a feminist President. My first meeting with a group of Ambassadors is with the group of Lady Ambassadors. It could not be otherwise.

Thank you for being here. I wish you every success in your work in Portugal.

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