On March 10, 2015, Former US Secretary of State Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a keynote address at the CSW Side Event “Women's Empowerment Principles” organized by Global Compact.
Ms. Clinton started by emphasizing that the gathering came at a pivotal moment in the cause of gender equality: time to build on the progress of the past and seize the promise of the future. She stressed that women and men who understand that gender equality was not just morally right but was “the smart thing to do” were growing in number. Therefore, it is crucial that we keep making the same case over and over again.
Former US Secretary of State referenced the Fourth World Conference on Women of 1995 held in Beijing where representatives of 189 nations pledged to work for an ambitious goal – the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of society. That was the time when the message became clear and unified: human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Institutions, slowly but surely, focused on the untapped potential of women to drive economic growth and social progress. Now, 20 years later, it is our job to keep the ambition of Beijing alive and to keep marching forward.
According to Ms. Clinton, despite all the obstacles, there has never been a better time in history to be born female. A lot of progress has been made and laws implemented. However, Ms. Hilary noted that all the laws do not count for much if they are not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. They have to be made real in people’s lives. It is important to realize that deep-seated cultural holes and structural biases continue to hold back the full participation of women and girls and expose them to discrimination and abuse.
Ms. Clinton called the full participation of women and girls “the great unfinished business of the 21st century.” She expressed her conviction that the only way to achieve broad-based growth and prosperity in a competitive and interdependent world was to build economies and societies that worked for everyone and included everyone. “We can’t afford to leave any talent on the sidelines,” noted the leader. Ms. Clinton called on all the relevant stakeholders to integrate gender equality throughout all of the goals of global sustainable development. If it is not there, there will be less of a force behind change.
Finally, the speaker underlined that we can be gratified that we have stuck together as a world and have continued to make the case. “The momentum for change is here but now we have to decide how we are going to respond. Bringing women and girls off the margins and into the mainstream has to be our mission now. The progress of the past 20 years was not an accident. It took commitment, accountability, and unity. So let’s keep working until we can finally say that the unfinished business of the 21st century is done,” concluded Ms. Clinton.