Talent Is Universal, But Opportunity Is Not

As many of you know, I have advocated for many years that women are the key to progress and prosperity around the world. I believe that. I know that many of you do as well. And the evidence increasingly supports that assertion. We know that investments in women yield very big dividends, and we want women to be given the tools so that they can make the most out of their own lives – run for office to be president or prime minister, work your way up to be appointed to a position of foreign minister, so many opportunities, because we know there is so much talent.

But what I have concluded over the years is that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. And in many places, opportunity is still out of reach for women, no matter how smart they are, how hard they work, how much encouragement they might be given even by their own families, that it is still a very difficult task.

Yet there are so many wonderful examples of women leaders like yourselves and organizations around the world that are making a real difference. And women's voices are now heard in every debate that is going on, in the public sector, of course, but increasingly in the civil society and in the private sector. I've seen examples on every continent of women banding together, organizing themselves, using microfinance, fighting to get an education, working to get healthcare, protecting their daughters, doing what is necessary to build a better future.

And I would very much like us to have some time today in this limited period we have to explore what we can do together, how we can support each other, but more importantly, how we can make girls and women a top priority.

And next week at the Security Council, we're going to be taking steps to improve the United Nations' response to sexual violence committed during armed conflict. I will be speaking next Wednesday on behalf of a U.S.-sponsored resolution to better implement the commitment that we should have to the role that women and girls should play in their lives, in their communities, and their countries, and in particular, to appoint a special representative of the Secretary General to lead, coordinate, and advocate for efforts to end sexual violence in armed conflict. I think we have to elevate that no matter what country we're from. Those of us who have traveled, as I think all of us here have done, have seen the consequences, and some of you have lived the consequences and your families have suffered the consequences as well.

So we intend to make this a centerpiece of my term as Secretary of State. There are people who say, well, women's issues is an important issue, but it doesn’t rank up there with the Middle East or Iran's nuclear threat or Afghanistan and Pakistan. I could not disagree more. I think women are key to our being able to resolve all of those difficult conflicts, as well as provide for a better future.

So let me just … and ask each and every one of you to think about any ideas you might have, any concerns you have that you would like to share before all of us. But mostly, let me just thank you for being here and for being in the positions that you are in and making a difference by setting an example and providing the role-modeling that is so necessary for not only girls and women to see, but for boys and men to understand there have to be changes in attitude, not just in policies and in law, in order for us to achieve the kind of equal rights and equal responsibilities that is our birthright.
—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, yesterday, at the Female Heads of State and Foreign Ministers Luncheon.

I had a dream the other night that I met Hillary Clinton. I asked her, "What can I do?" And she told me, "Everything you can."

[H/T to Shaker TinaH.]

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