My Faith Heroine: The Honourable Melanne Verveer by Baroness Goudie
I have known and worked with Melanne Verveer (Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, United States) for over 15 years. She exemplifies how strong faith informs effective action. Her work is mission-driven and is based on the simple, yet powerful belief that every person has worth.
Melanne’s early years were influenced by her parents and grandparents (who both immigrated to the United States from Ukraine) and her Catholic upbringing. I can see from working with her that her work is grounded in the values she learned from her faith and family, both of which taught her the importance of community action and of each individual’s ability to contribute regardless of background.
Growing up, Melanne also learned the importance of political activism, internationalism and compassion, and learned to appreciate the different worldviews that people bring with them. This trait has served her well as she is able to seek common ground with people of differing viewpoints. At the same time, I see her sense of mission as an outgrowth of her faith, as well as the need to act on that faith. She’s clear on objectives, brings people together and builds a team with skills to complement her own. Through Melanne’s dedication and strong vision, she has the ability to get others to willingly follow her lead.
For the past 15 years, Melanne has devoted herself to the empowerment of women and girls. She has focused a large part of her energy and talent on raising awareness of and fighting human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery. Much of her work has been done in conjunction with First Lady, Senator, and now Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Melanne worked in the White House as Deputy Chief of Staff to the First Lady and helped craft the Clinton Administration’s strategy on human trafficking. In this work, she has included allies such as men in law enforcement to widen the circle of those combatting this intolerable trade in human beings. Again, Melanne understands that we all have to work together, no one can be left out of any campaign, and that every individual has worth.
The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing reaffirmed to her the importance of women and girls to peace and prosperity. Along with First Lady Hillary Clinton and others at the State Department, she helped launch the Vital Voices Global Partnership, originally as a part of the US government and then an as global NGO. After leaving the White House in 2001, and for the subsequent eight years, she helped chaired the Vital Voices board and helped turn it into a powerhouse NGO, focusing on the empowerment of women and their power to change the world.
Two years ago, President Obama appointed Melanne as the first ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. I was at her swearing-in, along with her family and four hundred other friends. This ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department highlighted her commitment to the worth of each and every one of us. This was a historic appointment and we were all there to pay tribute to an extraordinary woman, who is driven by her values and her faith.
Melanne’s great quality is that she can quite simply get others to follow her, whether it is in Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Congo, Africa, Azerbaijan or Bosnia, to ensure that we make a difference. Simply put, you can never say no to this great woman of faith.