20 Years After Hillary’s ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights,’ How Far Have We Come?
Twenty years ago, then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stood before an audience of Chinese dignitaries in Beijing and and declared that “women’s rights are human rights.”
“I believe that now, on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break the silence,” she said. “It is time for us to say here in Beijing and for the world to hear that it is no longer to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.”
It was the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing and the location itself was controversial. At the time, China was known for its one-child policy, a law that led many Chinese families to abandon baby girls, hoping the next child would be a boy.
Out of that conference came the Beijing Platform for Action, a United Nations declaration to increase the number and power of women in politics across the world.
Ambassador Swanee Hunt was serving as U.S. Ambassador to Austria at the time. She recalls the State Department’s intensive planning for the First Lady’s speech, and the impact the speech had on the world at the time.
Today, Ambassador Hunt serves as a lecturer at Harvard University and chair of the Institute for Inclusive Security. She reflects on what’s changed in the two decades since the Beijing conference, and what still needs to change for women to reach parity with men in political life.
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