If Hillary Clinton needs any reinforcement for 2016 then the audience at Lincoln Centre for the second day of the Women in the World summit gave her more than enough. Appearing to rapturous applause, the former US Secretary of State continued on her signature mission, asserting that empowered women were a “core imperative” to achieving economic success.
Appearing alongside a slew of high-profile speakers at the two-day summit, Clinton noted that while women “have come so far” in many areas of society, women’s issues are still the “unfinished business of the 21st century” – and not just in developing countries. She spoke of how women are still “marginalised” in relation to their male counterparts in efforts to receive equal pay and equal access to education in Western countries. It’s been her fighting duty to make gender equality a global priority “since college, in law school, Arkansas, and the White House.”
“When I became secretary of state, I was determined to include this in the agenda — but I didn’t want to preach to the usual choir,” Clinton said.
In each country she visited, she said she found challenges with men who were resistant to the idea that women’s rights were not separate from society’s issues at large. She spoke of how she used empirical data to prove to defiant parties that empowering women remains a “core imperative” to economic success.
“Fighting to give opportunities to women and girls is not a nice thing to do,” she said. “But I told them that when women participate in the economy, it advances prosperity for everyone.”
She spoke with frustration at the pervasive nature of sexism that continues to give rise to barriers that institute change. “I have seen it over and over again, I have been kidded about it I have been ribbed, I have been challenged in boardrooms and official offices across the world” she said.
She also spoke of the Arab Spring uprisings, noting that women were at the “front lines of the revolution, but were denied a seat at the table,” and are “now facing a rising tide of sexual violence.”
“We are meeting at a remarkable moment of confluence,” she said. “There is a powerful new current of grassroots activism stirring, galvanised by events too outrageous to ignore, and enabled by new technology that give women and girls voices like never before.”
“We need to seize this moment.”
Seeking to energize the younger women in the audience, she urged them to pursue change and to continue the fight for women’s rights.
“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.” she said.
“We need to make equal pay and equal opportunity for women and girls a reality, so women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”
The two-day summit founded by The Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown and now in its fourth year also hosted an appearance from Angelina Jolie who introduced schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai, and personally pledged $200,000 to the Malala Fund.
Yousafzai, who appeared via video link, announced that the Malala Fund would contribute to the opening of a new school in her homeland that would educate 40 girls.
“Let us turn the education of 40 girls into 40 million girls,” she said.
Other notable presenters who paid homage to inspirational women leaders included Meryl Streep who paid tribute to the late Northern Ireland women’s rights activist Inez McCormack, and Oprah Winfrey, who introduced her own personal hero, human rights activist Dr Tererai Trent.
Dr Trent spoke of the importance of including boys in the dialogue about empowering women: “When we educate boys, they will so be respectful of girls. If we don’t educate boys today, 100 years from now they will be talking about being marginalized by women”.