Eleven Words

Melanne Verveer – Huffington Post – Monday, 17 December 2012 (originally published 10 Dec)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures as she gives a speech
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures as she gives a speech: “Frontlines and Frontiers: Making Human Rights a Human Reality,” Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, at Dublin City University in Dublin, Ireland. Image: Kevin/AP

As we commemorate International Human Rights Day today, December 10, I can’t help but recall the moment 17 years ago in Beijing when then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton proclaimed, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.”

Today, for many of us, these 11 words may seem obvious, even instinctive. But in 1995, they were a revelation. I remember being among the delegates at the Fourth World Conference on Women, and feeling a current of excitement wash across the room. It was perhaps one of the first times the world had heard a person of global stature assert at a global forum in such unequivocal terms that women’s rights and human rights were one and the same.

Today, in my official travels, I still meet women all over the world who tell me how those eleven words nearly two decades ago changed their lives. They helped raise the profile of — and garner more international support for — the work they were doing to protect women’s fundamental human rights to live free of violence and discrimination — whether it was working to end domestic violence or to prevent child marriage or to prosecute so-called “honor” crimes . . .

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