Resource

Women's Rights are Human Rights

Hillary Clinton’s speech about women’s rights.

Hillary Clinton at the United Nations Conference on Women

Sharon Farmer, Photograph of First Lady Hillary Clinton at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, China, September 5, 1995. National Archives.

Document Text

Summary

FIRST LADY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTONREMARKS FOR THE UNITED NATIONS FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN BEIJING, CHINA SEPTEMBER 5, 1995
Mrs. Mongella,

Distinguished delegates and guests,

I would like to thank the Secretary General of the United Nations for inviting me to be part of the 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 their communities, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, learners, workers, citizens and leaders.

(…)

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this conference. This event is a celebration of women’s contributions to society.
However different we may be, 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. We have a lot in common as women.
By gathering in Beijing, we are focusing world attention on issues that matter most in 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 participate fully in the political life of their countries. This conference focuses on the issues that are most important to women and their families.
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, nurses, teachers, lawyers, 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. 

(…)

Some people don’t understand why we are having this conference. Some people don’t understand why women are important in economics and politics. The women present at this conference show why women are important.
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 will flourish. 

That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family, and every nation on our planet has a stake in the discussion that takes place here.

If women do well, their communities do well. That is why these issues are important to everyone.
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 have had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women in my own country and around the world. 

(…)

I have worked on women’s issues for 25 years. As First Lady, I have had the chance to learn about women’s challenges across the world.
Women comprise more than half the world’s population. Women are 70 percent of the world’s poor, and two-thirds of those who are not taught to read and write. 

Women 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.

Women are the majority of the population. They are a large majority of the population that is poor and that cannot read or write. Most caretakers are women. But their work is not valued.
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 do many different types of work in the home and outside the home.
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 ballot box and the bank lending office. Women face discrimination and do not have the same opportunities as men.
Those of us who have the opportunity to be here have the responsibility to speak for those who could not. 

 

(…)

 

We should speak for the women who cannot.
If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women’s rights…. And women’s rights are human rights. Women’s rights are human rights.
Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely. And the right to be heard. 

 

Women must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure.

Women should have the right to free speech and to participate in democracy.
It is indefensible that many women in non-governmental organizations who wished to participate in this conference have not been able to attend — or have been prohibited from fully taking part. 

(…)

It is unacceptable that the Chinese government did not allow all women who wanted to attend this conference to participate.
Let this conference be our — and the world’s — call to action. 

And let us heed the call so that 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. 

Thank you very much. 

(…)

 

I am calling the world to action. We should work towards gender equality across the world.

Hillary Clinton speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women

Hillary Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton remarks for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995. Fourth World Conference on Women by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Secretariat.

Background

At the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, it became clear that there was much work to be done on women’s rights globally. While the conference wrote a declaration that confirmed the rights of women as human rights, it specifically excluded reproductive rights due to disagreem