Ambassador Sullivan at the Girls’ Soccer Tournament

Minister of Primary and Secondary Education,

Minister for Women’s Development

Minister of Sports,

Prefect of Brazzaville,

Mayor of Makélékélé,

Director of MTN Congo,

Director of the Savorgnan de Brazza Memorial,

Ladies and gentlemen of your ranks, grades, and qualities,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear students, and dear soccer players,

It is with much joy that I speak before you today at the seventh edition of the “Promo jeunes-filles” tournament on the theme: Engaged young girls: the leaders of tomorrow. I thank all who made this tournament possible, notably the partners of the American embassy: the telephone company MTN and the Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza memorial. I also thank all the Ministers represented here, and all of the schools who generously participated in this tournament.

As you know, soccer has always been my passion, I have played since I was young. And I still encourage everyone around me to play this sport, including my family and staff. I do this because I believe in the values that drive soccer and the skills that it develops for the betterment of our communities. According to the Organization of Cooperation and Economic Development, women’s economic participation in society accelerates development, helps in the fight against poverty, reduces inequalities, and improves the nutrition, health, and education of children. Women generally invest a higher portion of their revenues in their families and communities than do men. In this way, women disproportionately contribute to societal advancement, and they are a source of prosperity in economies. Even so, women and girls too often remain silent and disadvantaged.

Sport is one of the ways to acquire the necessary skills to surmount these inequalities. In this fashion, girls who fully devote themselves to the sport prepare themselves to be the leaders of tomorrow and true pillars of development.

Dear girls, your voice and your action are just as important and those of your “yayas.” Do not underestimate yourselves because of your youth. I am sure that the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, didn’t notice her young age. Early on she struggled against the mistreatment of young girls in Pakistan and for equal opportunities, especially in education. At just eleven years old, Malala was already known for her courage and her contribution to her community and the world. A good leader, she has said: “Realize our future now, and make our dreams reality tomorrow.”

Sports are an excellent demonstration of life and its lessons. Due to strict rules of the game, sports are an excellent way to develop the same skills as Malala and to forge your own independence and your leadership.

Indeed, players without distinction, aspire for their team’s victory, in this way, each is a leader on the field to defend and contribute to their collective effort. In soccer, victory isn’t celebrated as an individual feeling or one of a few players, but as the realization of the entire team’s efforts. This attitude reinforces team spirit. The more united the team, the more that victory is certain. Stay united together to face the adversity that confronts young girls.

In soccer there is no distinction between genders, the rules and the goals are the same. This is also valuable in your everyday life. See yourselves as leaders of tomorrow equal to men. Spend your time developing skills to better serve your community and your country. Some among you might find something that will help draw energy from the Congo River to create more viable energy for citizens. Some among you might play a core role in the conservation of Congo’s extraordinary tropical forest against climate change- all while preserving the magnificent biodiversity of this country and endangered species.

Maybe you will teach and raise future leaders or you yourselves will be leaders. Some among you might be pioneers of cheaper solutions to improve the lives of women and children. Maybe you all will promote environmentally-friendly portable stoves that are sold everywhere in Brazzaville. In general, women live longer than men. They carry the essential responsibility of raising children. Therefore, they mold society and the next generation. So, benefit from the gains of your country to advance the cause of the young girl, and improve her daily life.

In the United States, women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities. American women continue to have equal power in politics and in their career. It was only on June Fourth (4th), nineteen-nineteen (1919), that women voted for the first time in the United States. This year seems far away, but it is recent compared to our democracy, which is more than two-hundred (200) years old. So I encourage everyone who is of voting age to take full advantage of the new changes in Congolese law. Fully engage and participate in society – and be leaders. Express your ideas and vote! This simple but significant gesture, carries weight and is an act of appropriating your future and expressing gender equality.

In all of this, cherish peace and tolerance in everything you do. I invite you to spread these values during the entire competition to make this tournament beautiful, and during your entire lives for the well-being of your country and the world. May the best win! Thank you.