|Keynote Address by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, IWHC's Fourth Annual Gala|
Keynote Address by Honoree Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
I want to say a special word of acknowledgment to Adrienne Germain. Adrienne is someone whom I've known a very long time. We went to Wellesley together. And although women all over the world may not know her name, they owe her a debt of gratitude for all she has done to help make women the focus of economic and civic development. And I just want to thank her, because she has been a stalwart champion of women's rights long before Cairo, long before Beijing. She has really been there for women all over this world, and I'm very grateful to her for her leadership.
I also want to thank and apologize to my friend Ellen Chesler, the former Board Chair. I was actually supposed to be here last year, as some of you might remember, and I couldn't get my schedule worked out, and so I missed being here. I am so grateful for the opportunity to come this year to really thank all of you for what you do, and Ellen, of course, is one of the most important leaders on behalf of women and women's rights here in our country and elsewhere, and I appreciate her and all she does.
You know, during the Clinton administration, we worked with so many of you and the Coalition, and so many in this room. It was a partnership. And we started working seriously together in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. For the very first time in history, representatives of 180 nations came to the consensus that women's health, in particular women's reproductive health and empowerment, are critical to a nation's sustainability and growth. And the world agreed that we needed to take concrete steps to protect and empower women and girls. And we went about trying to do that. One of the real champions of that effort, Tim Wirth, who was then in the State Department, has been a consistent supporter of women's needs, year after year.
Now, as all of you know, the consensus that was reached was not easy. But after all the hard work that was undertaken, and the goals that were set, and the agreements that were reached between the gathered nations and the NGOs, many of us felt that we had taken a first significant step toward a future that would open doors for women, would provide protection and opportunity for women and girls. We agreed that by 2015, all governments would make access to reproductive health care and family planning services a basic right. That all governments would work to reduce dramatically infant, child, and maternal mortality. And that we would throw open the doors to education for every citizen, but particularly for girls and women. And we have made a tremendous amount of progress together. The public-private partnership that was created and built on in Cairo, that was furthered in Beijing, really provided the building blocks for activists throughout the world to try to hold governments accountable to the goals of Cairo.
And then the agenda that came out of Beijing further legitimized the work that was being done, often in isolation, by people who just labored against tremendous cultural, and social, and political, and legal, and economic odds. When we came together in Beijing, the number of nations had grown to 189. And together, we articulated a vision that underscored the importance of linking a nation's progress with full societal inclusion of women. That linked the vibrancy of the economy with the full contributions of women. That looked to extend the franchise to women. That really underscored what not only human experience, but reams of research had proven: that indeed, where women flourished, children flourished, families flourished, communities and nations flourished as well.
I was very gratified that following Beijing, both world bodies and nations used the Platform for Action as a roadmap. During the Clinton administration, I served as the Chair of the President's Interagency Council on Women, working first with Secretary Donna Shalala, and then Secretary Madeleine Albright, to try to make sure that our own country, our own government, was working to fulfill the goals we set forth in Beijing. And we did this in partnership with critical NGOs, most particularly with IWHC. None of it could have happened without your help and without your continuing advocacy.
So I think we can fairly say that the last ten years have seen a lot of progress around the world. We still have too many problems that we're not paying enough attention to, that get lost in just the day to day pressure of other priorities, or, as we face now, the horrible tragedy of the losses inflicted by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean region. But we can't forget that there is this unfinished agenda when it comes to women's health. You've already heard Kati mention HIV/AIDS. We know that, increasingly, the world's AIDS pandemic is one that affects women and girls disproportionately. And we have seen some steps taken to try to deal with that. I was proud to co-sponsor the important Microbicide Development Act, and we finally got money for that in the last omnibus appropriations bill. Not as much as requested, but still, it was a start. Because with $30 million, we can fund more research. Unfortunately, the money under this Administration was taken from the USAID Child Survival and Health Program, so it was not as important a victory as we would have liked, but at least we're trying to make some progress on that.
But we have a lot still to do with respect to HIV/AIDS, and Senator Barbara Boxer and I have proposed an amendment to the Global AIDS Bill, to provide assistance to foreign countries to combat HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, and in part to provide comprehensive assistance for programs for women and girls. There are so many strategies that we know work, and we're not yet fully committed in our government to implementing those strategies. ABC is a good strategy, but it has three parts to it, and we need to remind the Administration of that.
I think it's also important that we continue to push forward on global education, and along with my friend and my Congresswoman Nita Lowey, I've introduced the Education for All Act, to try to increase the amount of funding that comes from our nation for basic education, particularly of girls, but of all children. I think that one of the best ways we can combat terrorism is by educating girls and boys around the world, and we need a clear global strategy to do that.
We also are still struggling with family planning. Today, an estimated 20 million women worldwide risk unsafe abortions every year, and about 68,000 of them, the vast majority in poor countries, die from the consequences of these unsafe procedures. And yet, as we know, the current Administration is making it more difficult for women to receive the full range of health services. Under the global gag rule, which was reinstituted by the Bush administration, no USA funds may be provided to foreign NGOs that not only provide abortions for women, but even advocate counseling or legalization. I hope that we will do more to try to protect against these ill thought out policies by this Administration. I think we're going to have some very difficult years ahead of us, and I hope that each of you will be committed to advocate on behalf of women's health, the full range of women's health around the world, with respect even to our own government.
The third issue I want briefly to mention is something that another one of the honorees tonight has played a very critical role in highlighting. I want to thank Nicholas Kristof for the work he's done on human trafficking. We have an estimated 600 to 800 thousand men, women, and children trafficked worldwide each year across international borders. Approximately 14 to 17 to 18 thousand are trafficked annually into the United States. Since the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, I and others have been trying to raise public awareness, and frankly, global revulsion, against the practice of human trafficking. I've seen the results of such horrific human rights abuses all over the world, from young girls in Thailand dying of AIDS because they've been trafficked to the brothels in Bangkok, to young women in Eastern and Central Europe who had answered an ad for an au pair or a retail job, only to find themselves trapped in some kind of sex trade.
In the summer of 1997, I met with women leaders from Eastern and Central Europe, as well as with victims and family members, and we tried to develop a strategy, the first global strategy that had been devised. And later that year in Ukraine, our government, under the Clinton administration, launched a new information campaign designed to warn young women about the dangers posed by traffickers. And in the fall of 1999, in Istanbul, we announced a $1 million US commitment to combat trafficking, and to try to provide greater economic opportunities, such as through microcredit, so that young women weren't economically, or through family pressure, pushed into situations that led them to be trafficked.
So a lot of awareness has been built up, and improvements have been made. You know, in March of 1998, President Clinton condemned human trafficking as a fundamental human rights violation, and launched a comprehensive U.S. government response for prevention, protection, and prosecution, that laid the framework for the first anti-trafficking bill, which we finally were able to pass in 2000. I was proud as a Senator to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in voting to reauthorize that.
But we've got to do more, particularly with respect to the trafficking of young children, and I am hoping that the Senate will ratify the new protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The U.S. has played a major role in developing this new campaign against international trafficking, and now we have to continue to work with the rest of the world community to finally do whatever is necessary to end this.
There's so much that needs to be done, and so much of the work that the Coalition has been doing will rest with the young people who are here tonight. Another one of the honorees who you will hear from, Nicole Bidegain from Uruguay, is an extraordinary young woman who believes that being a citizen, no matter how old or how young, means taking responsibility. And particularly for young women, that is a continuing challenge: that we have to help, through both our private efforts and governmental outreach, young women everywhere to be able to do just that.
So I'm hoping that even despite the less-than-friendly atmosphere we currently face in Washington with the current Administration, we will not give up or give in, because it's important for us to recognize how far we've come since Cairo and Beijing, since the first anti-trafficking statute. Even the coverage of the disaster of the tsunami talks about the dangers of young children being trafficked, something that I'm not sure would have even been on the radar screen five or ten years ago. So we have made progress together, and it is important that your elected officials, from the White House to the Congress, hear your voices, and that they have to confront the consequences of their decisions.
Everywhere I traveled as First Lady, I saw the results of no family planning, of no safe abortions. I went to hospitals in Brazil where half of the hospital was a maternity ward, and the other half of the hospital was caring for women who'd had botched abortions. I went to Central Asia, just coming out from under the pressures of the Soviet Union, and realized that without our help, so many of the women there had no family planning, other than abortions. In meeting with leaders from across the globe on the issue of trafficking, I could see how the devaluation of girls' lives was something that was so taken for granted, so ingrained in the culture, that it was hard to change. But it was changing.
So I am fundamentally optimistic. As someone said when they heard me say that some time ago, "If I'd led your life, I'd be an optimist too." But I think it's far better than the alternative. And when it comes to fighting for women's rights, we have not achieved anything on behalf of women, but for women and men who have stood together against the tide of public opinion, against misguided leadership, against cultural practices, habits, and traditions, and slowly but surely, gained ground and held it for girls and women. That's what this Coalition has been doing for the last ten years, and that's why I'm very proud to be honored. But more than that, to thank you, and to wish us ten more good years of progress on behalf of women.