LADIES FIRST: In what was her most pointed remarks to date that defined issues that she will focus on, First Lady Melania Trump spoke of the struggle for equality, her former immigrant status and the need to challenge gender bias in all its forms as part of International Women’s Day on Wednesday. She also emphasized the importance of education as the most powerful way to promote and ensure women’s rights.
In honor of International Women’s Day, she addressed a White House crowd that included members of the United Nations Women for Peace Association and Girl Scouts of America. Calling for greater inclusiveness regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, Trump encouraged attendees to share in her campaign for a world with more tolerance. FLOTUS had conversations with guests, according to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, senior adviser and chief strategist to the First Lady, who gave details on the event.
Her designer of choice for the occasion was Ralph Lauren, with a sleeveless black wool dress with leather trim details on the shoulders. The announcement of next month’s Easter egg roll at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue seemed almost incidental considering what else is in store.
In an exclusive to WWD, it was revealed that the First Lady was proud to have the support of the Girl Scouts at Wednesday’s event and she spurred them on to try to earn a Girl Scouts Global Achievement Award. In doing so, they would join scouts in the U.S. and 90 countries learning about global issues affecting girls, young women and women. Trump urged them to become part of a movement that is 10 million strong “who are together sowing the seeds of global social change.”
In her formal remarks in front of guests that included the U.N. Women Peace Associates chairwoman Muna Rihani Al-Nasser, president Barbara Winston and Vice President Ruma DuPont, Trump said, “Throughout history and around the globe, we have seen a common thread in the ongoing struggle for equal rights, personal achievement and the betterment of society through the collaboration of women who together believed in a brighter future for themselves and for their children. As an immigrant myself, having grown up in a communist society, I know all too well the value and importance of freedom and equal opportunity — ideals which this great nation was founded on and has continued to strive toward throughout its history. “
Noting that Wednesday was reason to “celebrate the great work you have all dedicated yourselves to in promoting the rights of women and girls around the globe,” Trump continued. “As women, many of us have been blessed to share the joy of bringing new life into the world and with that comes the profound responsibility to ensure a just, safe and kind planet for all of our children, regardless of their gender.”
Reiterating “this deeply held understanding that we have more in common than we do not,” she said, “that must continue to inspire us to protect and empower the next generations of women and girls.”
Attendees were reminded “to reach out to our sisters around the globe who remain repressed, in pain, in fear and without hope. For so many of us fortunate enough, and by the grace of God, to live in free and open societies — gender equality is painful enough with the ongoing fight for equal pay, the need to challenge gender bias in all its forms, and the ongoing efforts to forge gender-balanced leadership,” according to Trump’s remarks.
Striking a more serious tone, she said, “But, there remains far more brutal and terrifying incarnations of actual gender persecution which we must face together, such as forced enslavement, sexual abuse and absolute repression of far too many women and girls around the globe. We must remember these women in our daily prayers and use our combined resources to help free them from such unthinkable and inhumane circumstances.”
She also emphasized the need to on stay committed to “the critical mission of International Women’s Day to empower all women and girls and be proactive in helping the oppressed and discriminated against around the globe who still remain disproportionately women.”
“I continue to firmly believe that education is the most powerful way to promote and ensure women’s rights. Together we will do this not only by striving for gender parity at all levels of education, but also by showing all children, and especially boys, that it is through empathy, respect and kindness that we achieve our collective potential,” she said.
The First Lady highlighted her own priorities for her husband’s term. “Over the next few years, I look forward to working alongside all of you to ensure that the gender of one’s birth does not determine one’s treatment by society. To do this, we must be bold for change and recognize the enormous internal resources we as women have demonstrated throughout history to not only overcome the oppressive circumstances of our own birth, but with heartfelt compassion and strength of purpose, have worked to better the lives of generations to follow.”
In reference to the Girl Scouts alliance, FLOTUS said, “Girl Scouts invites everyone to stand with girls, recognize the invaluable contribution they will make to our future, and give more girls in more places a chance to make history.”
She also gave a special salute to Sylvia Acevedo, interim chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of America, who is an engineer and rocket scientist. Trump said she was looking forward to helping her mentor girls and young women who will become the women of our future.
The First Lady encouraged guests to write on note cards that had been provided “ideas on how we can work creatively and collaboratively on promoting the rights of women and children around the world.”