Like the second First Lady, Hillary "remembers the ladies"


We heard a lot about whether the First Lady should attend the conference. But once she got there, we heard nothing about what she had to say. Here are exerpts from one of her speeches in Beijing.

There are some who wonder whether the lives of women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe.
The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard. Women comprise more than half the world's population. Women are 70 percent of the world's poor, and two-thirds of those are not taught to read and write.
Women are the primary caretakers for most of the world's children and elderly. Yet much of the work we do is not valued - not by economists, not by historians, not by popular culture, not by government leaders.
At this very moment, as we sit here, women around the world are dying from diseases that should have been prevented or treated; they are watching their children succumb to malnutrition caused by poverty and economic deprivation; they are being denied the right to go to school by their own fathers and brothers; they are being forced into prostitution, and they are being barred from the ballot box and the bank lending office.
The truth is that most women around the world work both inside and outside the home, usually by necessity. We must understand there is no formula for how women should lead their lives.
We also must recognize that women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected and protected. Our goals for this conference - to strengthen families and societies by empowering women to take greater control over their own destinies - cannot be fully achieved unless all governments accept their responsibility to protect and promote internationally recognized human rights.
Tragically, women are most often the ones whose human rights are violated. Even in the late 20th century, the rape of women continues to be used as an instrument of armed conflict.
Women and children make up a large majority of the world's refugees. And when women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse.
It is time to break our silence. It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights.
These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. The voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loud and clear:

It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.
It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution.
It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.
It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.
It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes.
It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.
It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.
If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women's rights. And women's rights are human rights.
Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely. And the right to be heard.

Women must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure. It is indefensible that many women in non-governmental organizations who wished to participate in this conference have not been able to attend - or have been prohibited from fully taking part.
In my country, we recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of women's suffrage. It took 150 years after the signing of our Declaration of Independence for women to win the right to vote. It was one of America's most divisive philosophical wars. But it was also a bloodless war. Suffrage was achieved without a shot fired.
Now it is time to act on behalf of women everywhere. If we take bold steps to better the lives of women, we will be taking bold steps to better the lives of children and families too.

© Copyright by POINT, 1995
Last modified 10/11/95