Hillary Rodham Clinton: Remarks to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Plenary Session (2022)

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session

delivered 5 September 1995, Beijing, China

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you very much, Gertrude Mongella, for your dedicated work that has brought us to this point, distinguished delegates, and guests:

I would like to thank the Secretary General for inviting me to be part of this important United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. This is truly a celebration, a celebration of the contributions women make in every aspect of life: in the home, on the job, in the community, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, learners, workers, citizens, and leaders.

(Video) Hillary Rodham Clinton Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session

It is also a coming together, much the way women come together every day in every country. We come together in fields and factories, in village markets and supermarkets, in living rooms and board rooms. Whether it is while playing with our children in the park, or washing clothes in a river, or taking a break at the office water cooler, we come together and talk about our aspirations and concern. And time and again, our talk turns to our children and our families. However different we may appear, there is far more that unites us than divides us. We share a common future, and we are here to find common ground so that we may help bring new dignity and respect to women and girls all over the world, and in so doing bring new strength and stability to families as well.

By gathering in Beijing, we are focusing world attention on issues that matter most in our lives -- the lives of women and their families: access to education, health care, jobs and credit, the chance to enjoy basic legal and human rights and to participate fully in the political life of our countries.

There are some who question the reason for this conference. Let them listen to the voices of women in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces. There are some who wonder whether the lives of women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe. Let them look at the women gathered here and at Huairou -- the homemakers and nurses, the teachers and lawyers, the policymakers and women who run their own businesses. It is conferences like this that compel governments and peoples everywhere to listen, look, and face the world’s most pressing problems. Wasn’t it after all -- after the women’s conference in Nairobi ten years ago that the world focused for the first time on the crisis of domestic violence?

Earlier today, I participated in a World Health Organization forum. In that forum, we talked about ways that government officials, NGOs, and individual citizens are working to address the health problems of women and girls. Tomorrow, I will attend a gathering of the United Nations Development Fund for Women. There, the discussion will focus on local -- and highly successful -- programs that give hard-working women access to credit so they can improve their own lives and the lives of their families.

What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well. That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family, and every nation on this planet does have a stake in the discussion that takes place here.

Over the past 25 years, I have worked persistently on issues relating to women, children, and families. Over the past two and a half years, I've had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women in my own country and around the world.

I have met new mothers in Indonesia, who come together regularly in their village to discuss nutrition, family planning, and baby care. I have met working parents in Denmark who talk about the comfort they feel in knowing that their children can be cared for in safe, and nurturing after-school centers. I have met women in South Africa who helped lead the struggle to end apartheid and are now helping to build a new democracy. I have met with the leading women of my own hemisphere who are working every day to promote literacy and better health care for children in their countries. I have met women in India and Bangladesh who are taking out small loans to buy milk cows, or rickshaws, or thread in order to create a livelihood for themselves and their families. I have met the doctors and nurses in Belarus and Ukraine who are trying to keep children alive in the aftermath of Chernobyl.

The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard. Women comprise more than half the world’s population, 70% of the world’s poor, and two-thirds of those who are not taught to read and write. We are the primary caretakers for most of the world’s children and elderly. Yet much of the work we do is not valued -- not by economists, not by historians, not by popular culture, not by government leaders.

At this very moment, as we sit here, women around the world are giving birth, raising children, cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning houses, planting crops, working on assembly lines, running companies, and running countries. Women also are dying from diseases that should have been prevented or treated. They are watching their children succumb to malnutrition caused by poverty and economic deprivation. They are being denied the right to go to school by their own fathers and brothers. They are being forced into prostitution, and they are being barred from the bank lending offices and banned from the ballot box.

Those of us who have the opportunity to be here have the responsibility to speak for those who could not. As an American, I want to speak for those women in my own country, women who are raising children on the minimum wage, women who can’t afford health care or child care, women whose lives are threatened by violence, including violence in their own homes.

(Video) Hillary Clinton - 4th World Conference for Women Speech

I want to speak up for mothers who are fighting for good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean air, and clean airwaves; for older women, some of them widows, who find that, after raising their families, their skills and life experiences are not valued in the marketplace; for women who are working all night as nurses, hotel clerks, or fast food chefs so that they can be at home during the day with their children; and for women everywhere who simply don’t have time to do everything they are called upon to do each and every day.

Speaking to you today, I speak for them, just as each of us speaks for women around the world who are denied the chance to go to school, or see a doctor, or own property, or have a say about the direction of their lives, simply because they are women. The truth is that most women around the world work both inside and outside the home, usually by necessity.

We need to understand there is no one formula for how women should lead our lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her own God-given potential. But we must recognize that women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected and protected.

Our goals for this conference, to strengthen families and societies by empowering women to take greater control over their own destinies, cannot be fully achieved unless all governments -- here and around the world -- accept their responsibility to protect and promote internationally recognized human rights. The -- The international community has long acknowledged and recently reaffirmed at Vienna that both women and men are entitled to a range of protections and personal freedoms, from the right of personal security to the right to determine freely the number and spacing of the children they bear. No one -- No one should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or political persecution, arrest, abuse, or torture.

Tragically, women are most often the ones whose human rights are violated. Even now, in the late 20th century, the rape of women continues to be used as an instrument of armed conflict. Women and children make up a large majority of the world’s refugees. And when women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse. I believe that now, on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break the silence. It is time for us to say here in Beijing, and for the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.

These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loudly and clearly:

It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed -- and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire, and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

(Video) First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Remarks to the Fourth Women's Conference in Beijing, China

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.1 Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely -- and the right to be heard.

Women must enjoy the rights to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries, if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure. It is indefensible that many women in nongovernmental organizations who wished to participate in this conference have not been able to attend -- or have been prohibited from fully taking part.

Let me be clear. Freedom means the right of people to assemble, organize, and debate openly. It means respecting the views of those who may disagree with the views of their governments. It means not taking citizens away from their loved ones and jailing them, mistreating them, or denying them their freedom or dignity because of the peaceful expression of their ideas and opinions.

In my country, we recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. It took 150 years after the signing of ourDeclaration of Independence for women to win the right to vote. It took 72 years of organized struggle, before that happened, on the part of many courageous women and men. It was one of America’s most divisive philosophical wars. But it was a bloodless war. Suffrage was achieved without a shot being fired.

But we have also been reminded, in V-J Day observances last weekend, of the good that comes when men and women join together to combat the forces of tyranny and to build a better world. We have seen peace prevail in most places for a half century. We have avoided another world war. But we have not solved older, deeply-rooted problems that continue to diminish the potential of half the world’s population.

Now it is the time to act on behalf of women everywhere. If we take bold steps to better the lives of women, we will be taking bold steps to better the lives of children and families too. Families rely on mothers and wives for emotional support and care. Families rely on women for labor in the home. And increasingly, everywhere, families rely on women for income needed to raise healthy children and care for other relatives.

As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace everywhere in the world, as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled, subjected to violence in and outside their homes -- the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized.

(Video) On This Day: Secretary Clinton's 1995 United Nations Speech - "Women's rights are human rights"

Let -- Let this conference be our -- and the world’s -- call to action. Let us heed that call so we can create a world in which every woman is treated with respect and dignity, every boy and girl is loved and cared for equally, and every family has the hope of a strong and stable future. That is the work before you. That is the work before all of us who have a vision of the world we want to see -- for our children and our grandchildren.

The time is now. We must move beyond rhetoric. We must move beyond recognition of problems to working together, to have the comment efforts to build that common ground we hope to see.

God's blessing on you, your work, and all who will benefit from it.

Godspeed and thank you very much.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Remarks to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Plenary Session (2)Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Catalogued Antimetabole

Audio and Image (Screen shot) Source: The William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

Page Updated: 3/13/21

U.S. Copyright Status: This text and audio = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com.

(Video) Hillary Clinton's 1995 UN Women Speech

FAQs

What was the purpose of Hillary Clinton's speech Women's rights? ›

Its most prominent usage is as the name of a speech given by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the First Lady of the United States, on September 5, 1995, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In this speech, she sought to closely link the notion of women's rights with that of human rights.

What is Hillary Clinton known for? ›

Hillary Diane Clinton (née Rodham; born October 26, 1947) is an American politician, diplomat, and former lawyer who served as the 67th United States secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, as a United States senator representing New York from 2001 to 2009, and as First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001 as the ...

How old is Hillary Clinton? ›

Who first said women's rights are human rights? ›

The slogan “women's rights are human rights” first appeared on many activists' radar around 1988, seven years before Clinton took the stage in Beijing. A Filipino women's coalition called Gabriela launched a “Women's Rights are Human Rights” campaign as part of their protests against the dictatorship of Ferdinand E.

WHO said human rights are human rights and women's rights are human rights? ›

Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech at a UN conference propelled this idea into the mainstream after centuries of society sidelining gender equality as “women's issues.”

What is Bill Clinton's net worth? ›

List of presidents by peak net worth
NameNet worth (millions of 2022 US$)Political party
James Madison136Democratic-Republican
Lyndon B. Johnson131Democratic
Herbert Hoover100Republican
Bill Clinton90Democratic
41 more rows

Who was the youngest president? ›

Age of presidents

The youngest to become president by election was John F. Kennedy, who was inaugurated at age 43. The oldest person to assume the presidency was Joe Biden, who took the presidential oath of office 61 days after turning 78.

How old is Romney? ›

Who is the richest president? ›

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is the wealthiest on our list. Before his term as the 45th American president, The Apprentice star was known as a billionaire property mogul and television personality. The controversial businessman-turned-politician is reported by Forbes to be worth US$3 billion.

What is Donald Trump worth net worth? ›

How many times did Hillary campaign for president? ›

Hillary Clinton has unsuccessfully run for president twice: Hillary Clinton 2008 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.

Who was the first woman to fight for women's rights? ›

Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a young mother from upstate New York, and the Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott, about 300 people—most of whom were women—attended the Seneca Falls Convention to outline a direction for the women's rights movement.

Who was the first person to recognize human rights? ›

Then, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the city of Babylon, did something totally unexpected—he freed all slaves to return home. Moreover, he declared people should choose their own religion. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing his statements, is the first human rights declaration in history.

Who first used the word human rights? ›

In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison wrote in a newspaper called The Liberator that he was trying to enlist his readers in "the great cause of human rights", so the term human rights probably came into use sometime between Paine's The Rights of Man and Garrison's publication.

Are women's rights considered human rights? ›

Women's rights are the fundamental human rights that were enshrined by the United Nations for every human being on the planet nearly 70 years ago. These rights include the right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage.

What is the main role of a woman in our society? ›

Women are the primary caretakers of children and elders in every country of the world. International studies demonstrate that when the economy and political organization of a society change, women take the lead in helping the family adjust to new realities and challenges.

What are the rights of a woman to protect herself? ›

Know your rights: 10 laws that protect women and their rights
  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. ...
  • Special Marriage Act, 1954. ...
  • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. ...
  • Maternity Benefit Act,1861. ...
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
24 Jun 2016

What were Hillary Clinton's proposals for healthcare reform? ›

Clinton's plan includes numerous additional policies, such as new protections for prescription drug users, extending 100 percent federal matching for the first three years to states that newly expand their Medicaid programs, offering a Medicare buy-in for individuals ages 55 to 64, and allowing undocumented immigrants ...

What did Hillary Clinton do for Obama? ›

Hillary Clinton served as the 67th United States Secretary of State, under President Barack Obama, from 2009 to 2013, overseeing the department that conducted the foreign policy of Barack Obama.

Who was Hillary's assistant? ›

Starting in 2015, Abedin served as vice-chairperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign for president, while continuing to serve as personal assistant to Clinton.

Why was Clinton's healthcare reform initiative unsuccessful quizlet? ›

Why was President Clinton's health care reform initiative unsuccessful? It was opposed by the American Medical Association. Which of the following was a problem that critics had with the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy? It still allowed gay members to serve in the military.

Why did President Clinton's plan for healthcare reform fail quizlet? ›

Why did President Clinton's proposed health care plan fail? Its main concern was guaranteeing health care coverage for all Americans. His plan would particularly benefit people without any health insurance, but it would also have extended coverage for millions of others with inadequate health insurance.

Which of the following was the main goal of President Clinton's plan to reform the healthcare system? ›

Its goal was to come up with a comprehensive plan to provide universal health care for all Americans, which was to be a cornerstone of the administration's first-term agenda.

What was one of Clinton's goals to improve the economy? ›

In 1993, President Clinton and Vice President Gore launched their economic strategy: (1) establishing fiscal discipline, eliminating the budget deficit, keeping interest rates low, and spurring private-sector investment; (2) investing in people through education, training, science, and research; and (3) opening foreign ...

What is Bill Clinton's net worth? ›

List of presidents by peak net worth
NameNet worth (millions of 2022 US$)Political party
James Madison136Democratic-Republican
Lyndon B. Johnson131Democratic
Herbert Hoover100Republican
Bill Clinton90Democratic
41 more rows

What was significant about the election of 2008? ›

Obama won a decisive victory over McCain, winning the Electoral College and the popular vote by a sizable margin, including states that had not voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since 1976 (North Carolina) and 1964 (Indiana, Virginia, and Nebraska's 2nd congressional district).

What does Hillary's mean? ›

Hilary, Hilarie or Hillary is a given and family name, derived from the Latin hilarius meaning "cheerful", from hilaris, "cheerful, merry", which comes from the Greek ἱλαρός (hilaros), "cheerful, merry", which in turn comes from ἵλαος (hilaos), "propitious, gracious".

Who is Weiner's wife? ›

Who is Huma Abedin seeing? ›

Hillary Clinton is delighted that her top aide, Huma Abedin, has been dating Bradley Cooper. Page Six exclusively revealed last month that Abedin has been secretly seeing Cooper after they were set up by Vogue doyenne Anna Wintour.

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