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What's Next for Hillary Clinton? A Call to Action For Women and Girls

"Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights," says Hillary Clinton at the Women in the World summit.


"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," began Hillary Clinton this morning at the opening of the second day of the annual Women in the World conference, a two-day summit focusing on various issues surrounding women and girls around the world.

The former Secretary of State spoke for nearly 45 minutes about her experience in official offices and board rooms around the world and stressed the need for female empowerment. "I have been kidded about it, I have been ribbed, I have been challenged," she said, "they nod, they smile, then they relegate these issues to the sidelines." But Clinton knows, and emphasized in her speech and to an audience of hundreds of men and women, that giving women and girls a chance is not just the "nice thing to do," but something that's vital for global progress. "It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands…This is a core imperative for every human being and every society…Laws and traditions that hold back women hold back entire societies."

When thinking about women's roles in America, and our society in general, Clinton made a point that reminded me of something myself, and perhaps others in my generation take for granted: "Our global leadership for peace and prosperity for freedom and equality is not a birthright," she said. "It must be earned by every generation." That includes our fight at home for equality—my generation of 20 and 30 somethings were brought up in a world with opportunity made possible by our mother's generation. But we still have a long way to go and hard work to do to ensure that change is ongoing.


"We need to empower women here at home to participate fully in our economy and our society, we need to make equal pay a reality, we need to extend family and medical leave benefits to more workers and make them paid, we need to encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in math and science….That’s how America will lead in the world," Clinton continued. Her message extended to what's happening abroad, "The extremists understand the stakes of this struggle. They know that when women are liberated; so are entire societies. We must understand this too. And not only understand it, but act on it."

As Clinton wrapped up her speech to make room for other inspiring women to address everything from violence towards women in India to the importance of STEM education for girls, she left us with a simple, yet powerful sentiment: "human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights." We can all embrace this rallying cry to make sure we finish "this unfinished fight of the 21st Century."

Add reading Hillary Clinton's inspiring speech at Women in the World to your To-Do list here.

Related: Hillary Clinton Defends Government Support for Women's Reproductive Rights

Image via Women in the World

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This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

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As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

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