No one can deny Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a longtime, committed supporter of the rights of women and girls globally—especially the right for women to plan their pregnancies. Clinton spoke this afternoon at the International Conference on Population and Development on the 15th anniversary of its historic Cairo summit, when 179 governments adopted a program to level out population and development by addressing gender equity and reproductive rights.
I listened to Secretary of State Clinton’s speech live on C-SPAN (watch the video here) and teared up. Here’s a (rough) transcript for some of the points she made.
- According to the Cairo summit, 2015 is the target year when “all governments will make access to reproductive health care and access to family planning services a basic right,” including but not limited to reducing infant and maternal mortality, and open doors to education, “especially for girls and women.”
- “It’s hard to believe Cairo was the first global forum that recognized women’s health, the quality of women’s lives and progress on a greater scale.”
- The Cairo goals “remain critical and they remain unfilled,” but “we have made measurable progress” since 1994 in improving the lives of women and girls. The use of contraceptives was less than 10 percent in the ’60s to 42 percent in 1998; efforts have also increased child survival rates and the number of girls enrolled in schools around the world. They are also working to address gender-based violence in areas of conflict (such as women and girls who are raped in Darfur).
- “Women and girls bear the burdens of global crises,” wherever these crises may occur.
- “[Women and girls] still are the majority of the world’s poor, unschooled, unhealthy, and unfed … we’ve seen that from The Congo to Bosnia to Burma.”
- “Far too many women still have little to no access” to reproductive control. What does it mean for lost productivity and lost lives?
- More than half of women in the developing world deliver babies without a nurse or doctor.
- “One woman dies every minute of every day in pregnancy or childbirth, and for every woman who dies, another 20 suffer from injury or infectious disease. Every minute!”
- Many women lack access to modern forms of contraception, which contributes to the 20 million unsafe abortions that take place every year.
- Other threats to the health of women in the developing world include STDs, including HIV/AIDS; obstetric fistula kills millions, especially young girls; and an estimated 70 million women and girls worldwide have been subjected to female genital cutting, which not only leads to infections but also makes childbirth more dangerous.
- “The subject of reproductive health is subject to a great deal of debate, But i think we can all agree these numbers are not only grim, but intolerable.”
- “We cannot accept the ongoing marginalization of half the world’s population … suffering that can and should be avoided … potential that goes unfulfilled.”
- “Investing in the health of women and girls is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.” To achieve this goal, governments are integrating Cairo’s goals by encouraging entrepreneurialism in Latin American and working with religious leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. When women have access to family planning and can bring financial stability to their loved ones, “they flourish and so do the people around them.”
- “Maternal and child health are particularly strong indicators of other progress.”
- “There is a direct line between a woman’s reproductive health and her ability to lead a productive and fulfilling life.”
- “All the prenatal care in the world won’t protect a mother and child from an abusive home.”
- “We have our work cut out for us … I want to urge that we not grow weary. I don’t know about you, but it can be a little hard to take. It seems so obvious and self-evident … but please stay with us and let’s try to create institutional and structural change that does not get wiped away when the political winds blow.”
Wow. Pretty incredible. Here’s the C-SPAN video again, in case you would like to watch the speech yourself.
And if women’s rights worldwide fascinate you, I urge to explore these subjects in further detail: