Hillary Clinton: Helping Women Isn’t Just a ‘Nice’ Thing to Do
[ed: Hillary Clinton came by Women in the World this morning and rocked the theater with this historical, powerful speech. We’ve transcribed the full thing below. Sorry if this is a Dashboard monster.]
Thank you so much. What a wonderful occasion for me to be back here, the fourth Women in the World conference I’ve been privileged to attend, introduced by the founder, creator, and my friend, Tina Brown. When one thinks about this annual conference, it really is intended to—and I believe has— focus attention on the global challenges facing women, from equal rights and education to human slavery, literacy, the power of the media and technology to affect change in women’s futures, and so much else. And for that I thank Tina and the great team that she has worked with in order to produce this conference and the effects it has created. It’s been such an honor to work with all of you over the years. Though it’s hard to see from up here out into the audience, I did see some faces and I know that this is an occasion for so many friends and colleagues to come together and take stock for where we stand and what more needs to be done in advancing the great unfinished business of the 21st century: advancing rights and opportunities for women and girls.
Now this is unfinished around the world, where too many women are still treated at best as second-class citizens, at worst as some kind of subhuman species. Those of you who were there last night saw that remarkable film that interviewed men primarily in Pakistan, talking very honestly about their intention to continue to control the women in their lives and their reach. But the business is still unfinished here in the United States, we have come so far together but there’s still work to be done.
Now, I have always believed that women are not victims, we are agents of change, we are drivers of progress, we are makers of peace – all we need is a fighting chance.
And that firm faith in the untapped potential of women at home and around the world has been at the heart of my work my entire life, from college to law school, from Arkansas to the White House to the Senate. And when I became Secretary of State, I was determined to weave this perspective even deeper into the fabric of American foreign policy.
But I knew to do that, I couldn’t just preach to the usual choir. We had to reach out. To men. To religious communities. To every partner we could find. We had to make the case to the whole world that creating opportunities for women and girls advances security and prosperity for everyone. So we relied on the empirical research that shows that when women participate in the economy, everyone benefits. When women participate in peace-making and peace-keeping, we are all safer and more secure. And when women participate in politics of their nations they can make a difference.
But as strong a case as we’ve made, too many otherwise thoughtful people continue to see the fortunes of women and girls as somehow separate from society at large. They nod, they smile and then relegate these issues once again to the sidelines. I have seen it over and over again, I have been kidded about it I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in board rooms and official offices across the world.
But fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to-do. It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands to spend doing that . This is a core imperative for every human being and every society. If we do not complete a campaign for women’s rights and opportunities the world we want to live in the country we all love and cherish will not be what it should be.
It’s no coincidence that so many of the countries that threaten regional and global peace are the very places where women and girls are deprived of dignity and opportunity. Think of the young women from northern Mali to Afghanistan whose schools have been destroyed. Or the girls across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia who have been condemned to child marriage. Or the refugees of the conflicts from eastern Congo to Syria who endure rape and deprivation as a weapon of war.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries where the rule of law and democracy are struggling to take root are the same places where women and girls cannot participate as full and equal citizens. Like in Egypt, where women stood on the front lines of the revolution but are now being denied their seats at the table and face a rising tide of sexual violence.
It is no coincidence that so many of the countries making the leap from poverty to prosperity are places now grappling with how to empower women. I think it is one of the unanswered questions of the rest of this century to whether countries, like China and India, can sustain their growth and emerge as true global economic powers. Much of that depends on what happens to women and girls.