Remarks by Secretary Clinton
at Women in Public Service Project Institute
Bryn Mawr College
July 9, 2013
Secretary Clinton’s address can be watched here on demand.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Oh, it is wonderful being here this afternoon and at this great institution that has taken women and women’s education seriously for so long.
I want to thank President Cassidy for that warm welcome and for hosting us here today. I want to recognize and thank Jane Harman for her leadership and the role that the Wilson Center is playing in supporting the Women in Public Service Project. And as the delegates gather here for this two-week institute, I think we should ask them to stand so that we can show our appreciation and respect for their coming here to Bryn Mawr for this opportunity.
It’s great to see all this sisterly affection so close to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. And I also want to say hello to our friends across the Atlantic who are meeting in Brussels and watching us online. This is truly a global gathering.
On a personal note, I want to thank Farah Pandith and everyone at the State Department who has helped to nurture this program from the beginning. And I’m very pleased that, toward the end of your experience, you will have a chance to meet with our former Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Ambassador Melanne Verveer.
The idea for this project really arose from our observation that even though we could meet virtually through the internet, on Skype, in other technological miracles, it was more important than ever that we actually engaged in person-to-person contact, that we had a chance to look at each other, to listen to each other, to share our experiences. That is especially true for women and girls, but also for men and boys, that at a time when we have this unparalleled virtual connectivity we can’t forget that where most of life is lived, where most decisions are made, are in our relationships, within our families, our neighborhoods, our communities and societies, our countries, and, indeed, our world.
So I thank the team here at Bryn Mawr for putting together this very important event. And it is an honor that it would be hosted here, because, since 1885, Bryn Mawr has been a leader and was the first American institution of higher education to offer graduate degrees to women and also the first school in 1912 to offer doctorates in social work to both men and women.
It is no coincidence that a women’s college like Bryn Mawr became such a source for better analyzing social conditions and then taking actions to ameliorate them. From Jane Addams to Frances Perkins to so many other women, including one of my great predecessors as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, women in our country have been at the forefront of important social work in the last century – studying problems, gathering data, shaping and implementing policies that improved lives and strengthened communities. And Bryn Mawr continues that legacy of scholarship and advocacy.
I think it’s also important that we take a page from that history, because part of what this institute is about is not only identifying and inviting women who are leaders, but trying to help those women lead in ways that will better their lives and the lives of those whom they can touch and affect. And so starting from that premise, we are here today with the commitment to promote women in public service. That’s really what this institute on peace building and development is all about. I may have left the State Department, where we were privileged to begin this program, but I am absolutely committed to the cause.
It’s important that we look at how daunting the challenges are, but also how great the opportunities to address them are as well. You know the statistics: Tens of millions of girls who are not in school who should be; women hold less than 21 percent of all seats in parliaments and legislatures around the world; here in the United States, only 24 percent of elected officials in our state legislatures are women; and in the private sector, we still see many difficulties that women face so that only 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
With those kinds of numbers in mind, but more importantly the stories behind those numbers, we launched the Women in Public Service Project at the State Department in 2011. We originally partnered with Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Barnard, and my own alma mater, Wellesley College. It was the only program of its kind cosponsored by government and academics. And it became a very important kind of partnership.
Our goal was to establish a comprehensive plan that would draw on our shared strengths, mentorships, leadership initiatives, curriculum design, working with governments, educational institutions, private sector partners, and NGOs. And I’m very pleased that here we were in 2013, and we can see the progress that we are making.
We have 50 new partners, including Scripps College, Mills College, Mount Saint Mary’s College, City College of New York, University of Massachusetts, Arizona State University, San Francisco State University, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and so many others.
We also have a growing roster of allied organizations around the world. From the Middle East to South Asia to Latin America, many universities have endorsed the principles of this project and the message of empowering women in government is spreading.
We have creative partners in the private sector like Dell and Intel. And we know that so much of what will happen in government and in politics in the years to come will take place online. So how do we make sure that we have the right tools to be able to achieve the goals that we are setting for ourselves?
Around the world in embassies, parliaments, ministries, commissions, more and more women are being accepted and they’re proving that they can contribute and they can lead. And a growing number of these kinds of offices and organizations have endorsed this program.
I’m very pleased that we’ve had events that have been hosted during the year. There was a training event in Bangladesh, a roundtable in Morocco on political participation. There have been meetings around special topics, like the workshop on public service and global health, sponsored by Smith College in Paris. Scripps, Mount Saint Mary’s, and Mills College has focused on Latin America and interacting with women from our friends to the south.
Now, nearly all of this activity has happened in a short period of time, but it’s important that we recognize why this needs to be institutionalized and moved forward. Now, later this month, there will be a conference at the China Women’s University in Beijing linking up to this project. In the next three years, we’ll be hosting programs in Afghanistan, Tanzania, India, Italy, Peru, Colombia, and Canada.
What is the best way we can approach what I hope will be a growing network that will connect you not only when you are here but when you are home, that will continue to provide the interactions and support that you will need as you do the work that you are committed to? I want to focus on two goals that I think will help strengthen our cause.
First, I’m a big believer in evidence. I don’t think it’s enough for us to say in today’s world we should do something because it’s the right thing to do or because we believe that it should be done. That is certainly the motivator, and I have been motivated by my own sense of what is right and what is wrong for my entire life. But we need evidence.
As Secretary of State, I came into the office knowing that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights, but I also knew that a speech is not a policy, a speech does not, by itself, create change. And I was determined that women and girls would become integrated into our foreign policy because the evidence about the importance of that was so compelling.
If women participate in their economies, the economies grow. More people are employed, more children have better futures. If women are kept out by legal restraints or by cultural taboos, countries lose the benefits to themselves of their participation. In politics, if women are not at the table in government ministries or at parliaments or other elected positions, the discussion can’t be fully reflective of the needs of all the people.
The Chinese have this great saying that women hold up half the sky. So if you are holding up half the sky, you might occasionally want to be heard about what you think should be done underneath the sky. And therefore, having women at the table holding these positions broadens the discussion. And in peace building and development, we have seen over and over again the difference that women can make, women who finally say enough. Because in today’s kind of conflicts, it’s not armies fighting armies, it’s women and children who suffer, who are the primary victims of the kinds of wars that still plague our planet.
Some quick examples. One study in India demonstrated that villages led by women make greater investments in drinking water and infrastructure, immunized more children, educated more girls, and experienced lower levels of corruption. Now, those are pretty significant findings, but we need more studies in more places to know what to make of them. We can’t just say some villages in India have proven this. We want to see what happens in as many places as possible. Because good decisions are based on evidence, not ideology or preconceived notions.
We are up against, in many places around the world, deeply ingrained prejudices and cultural taboos. So we need to be able to stand on evidence, so that no one can dismiss or doubt the proposals, the policies that you will be advocating.
This is especially important for academic and research institutions, which is why I’m thrilled that so many colleges and universities are part of this effort. But it’s not enough if we don’t work together to gather this evidence, to analyze it, and then to disseminate it.
There’s some very interesting information coming, for example, from India and Bangladesh about what happens when a girl is given a bicycle to go to and from school. Because very often – and our delegates know this better than I – in many villages there are primary schools, but the secondary schools are further away and it’s very difficult for parents – and as mother myself, I understand this – to let their daughters go by themselves to school, because who knows what awaits them. But a bicycle has proven, in many instances, to get a girl safely from home to school and back.
Do we have enough evidence to say let’s go out and buy millions of bicycles? Not yet. But’s it’s the kind of example that we should be studying and that we need our partners in academia to help us understand.
Second, we need to expand what we mean by women’s leadership. Of course, I and I’m sure all of you want to see more women as heads of state and governments. I always get in trouble when I say that. But it’s much more that we seek, because just having one woman as the head of a government may or may not change what happens below that woman. In fact, having now met many of the leaders of countries around the world for more than 20 years, I find that men and women leaders often are paralyzed by the problems they face. They don’t know how to solve those problems. They don’t know how to break through the obstacles that exist.
So we need more people supporting leaders who themselves are leaders, more women and men of good faith at every level of political life. We need more leaders who stand against corruption; we need more leaders who say no to business as usual; we need more leaders who get up every single day and say what can I do this day to help the most people live up to their God-given potential.
So we need leaders in every aspect of society and from every part of that society, whether it is NGOs or independent commissions or international bodies or human rights organizations from rural areas as well as cities. We need more people willing to put themselves out to become leaders.
I’ve had the great privilege of serving with many inspiring leaders, and particularly the women whom I have served with in the Senate or in the diplomatic world, from Barbara Mikulski and Dianne Feinstein to Michelle Bachelet and Christine Lagarde and others. But their success did not come overnight. They had to work hard, and they often faced doubts, hesitancy, questioning. But they kept moving forward. And what distinguishes the best women leaders that I have worked with is not that they just do politics or government as it’s always been done, but they keep trying to make it better. They keep looking for ways to make a difference, and I hope that will be what our delegates take back.
I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie about the end of the terrible conflict in Liberia called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” How many of you have seen “Pray the Devil Back to Hell?” I really commend it to you, because the conflict in Liberia – and I think we have someone from Liberia here – was so brutal, so terrible, left the country in just a dreadful state of destruction, but it kept going on, it wouldn’t end, until the women of Liberia said enough. And women came together, Christian and Muslim alike, educated and uneducated, village and city, and said we are not going to let this go on.
And there was one of the many efforts at peace making going in the neighboring country of Ghana, and these women – mostly market women – took themselves to Ghana, to Accra, where the meeting was being held, and basically barricade the doors where the meeting was going on and said we are not moving and you are not leaving until you make peace. Now, none of them had an elected position. There was no government at that time that was functioning. They weren’t warlords. They were peacemakers. But it was the beginning of the end of that dreadful conflict. They showed real leadership when there was no other way forward.
So I think as we talk about our goal of women holding 50 percent of all public sector jobs by 2050 – 50 by 50 – it’s going to take a lot of women stepping up and being willing to put themselves on the line. It’s going to take a lot of courage and persistence. It’s going to take building coalitions with people that you may think you have nothing in common with to break down the lines that divide us all too often.
We are all human beings. As my husband likes to say, we are 99.9 percent the same if you look at our genetic makeup. That one tenth of 1 percent is what makes life interesting, how the color of our skin is, the quality of our hair, where we live, what we do. But we can’t ever forget we are all human beings. We all want a feeling that we are important to the people close and near to us. We want to live in peace and raise our children in peace and have a better life.
So this project – yes, it’s about the delegates, but it’s about so much more. It’s about laying down a marker that in this complicated, difficult world, dangerous and threatening in so many places, we can do better.
As Secretary of State, I went to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I went to Goma, and as many of you know, the war in the DRC in the eastern part has taken more than five million lives and has affected millions and millions more of the people who live there. The terrible abuses against women have just been horrific.
And so when I got to Goma, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I had read the statistics. I knew of the epidemic of rape and other disgusting and dehumanizing attacks on women, girls, even babies. And what I found were people who were resilient and determined. When I went to the hospital where the most badly injured women and girls were being treated, I heard some of the most terrible stories I’ve ever heard in my life, and I also met some of the bravest, most admirable people I’ve ever met in my life.
Never bet against the human spirit, the capacity to overcome. But if there aren’t leaders to seize the moment, to make the tough decisions – to end the war in Liberia, to stand up against abuse – it can go on and on and on.
This Friday will be the 16th birthday of a young woman from Pakistan. Here name is now known throughout the world – Malala. I’m sure many of you know her story. She will mark this Friday by addressing the United Nations, just seven months after being shot in the head by the Taliban for insisting on her right to go to school.
Three million people have signed the “I am Malala” petition, urging that girls everywhere be given the chance to be educated. This young, young woman has given so much but she is determined to continue her struggle. She, in fact, has given a global face to dignity, to drive, to determination. In her first public comment after the shooting, she said: God has given me this new life. I want to serve the people. I want every girl, every child, to be educated.
Thankfully, she is still able to tell her story and inspire countless others to understand that we need every person to be given an education, every person to be given a chance to make the most out of that God-given potential we are all born with.
So I’m very encouraged. I know we have a long way to go. In fact, Bryn Mawr is a Welsh term for “big hill.” So we know we have a big hill to climb. If this were easy, it would have already been done, you would not be here; this beautiful space would not be filled with people who want to support you and this institute.
So let’s keep our eyes on the goal. Let’s continue to not only compile the evidence that supports what you are doing, makes the case for how important it is, but also helps to encourage more women and girls to put themselves on the line for leadership. Let’s do everything we can to get to 50 by 50. In 2050, I will be 103 years old. And I intend to see that we have succeeded.
So I thank you for what you are doing in each of your lives, in your homes, to make a difference. I encourage you and I ask you to not only think about what you can do but how the rest of us can support you in the doing. When you leave here, we want you to feel that you are part of a broad network of women and men, American and international, who have a stake in your success. We want you to be part of the 50 by 50 movement. Thank you all very much.