Hillary Clinton kicked off the 4th annual Women in the World conference hosted by Tina Brown and the Daily Beast last week with increased vigor and urgency, adding to speculation that she will run for president in 2016. Even panelist Eva Longoria joked, "after working on President Obama's election campaign I vowed I'd never campaign again, unless of course Hillary runs in 2016." Far from setting a political agenda, Clinton laid out a plan that was far more inclusive. Reiterating her well-known words that she has made since advocating for women's rights while serving as first lady, she emphasized, "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights."
Acknowledging that even the U.S. has some work to do as we come into the 21st century, Clinton emphasized the correlation between women's rights and the productivity of nations. She cited research showing that when women participate in the economy everyone benefits. Both peacemaking, which is made safer and secure, and political negotiations are more likely to succeed when women have a place at the table. She even discussed her own experience of being "kidded, ribbed and chided in boardrooms across the country" just for being an advocate for women's issues.
Clinton flipped the common approach to problem solving from the top down on its head, and said that true change can only come from the bottom up. Technology is one way to enhance the global consciousness and bring abuses out of the shadows and into the light. The tragic rape in India and the national outrage that followed is one recent example of change coming from the citizens rather than the government. Exceptional figures also help ignite change. Clinton spoke of such lightning rod figures from Inez McCormack of Northern Ireland who put forth the Good Friday Accords, to a little girl named Malala in Afghanistan who refused to give in to the Taliban — even after being shot in the head.
The force of Clinton’s speech came when she spoke of the direct connection between liberated societies and liberated women. She said, "extremism thrives in ignorance, anger, intimidation and cowardice ... these extremists understand the stakes, they know that when women are liberated so are entire societies. We must not only understand this but act on it." GDP Growth has gained nearly $3.5 trillion since the workforce of women has grown from 30% to 48% participation, according to Clinton. According to The Economist, women make 80% of consumers' buying decisions — from health care and homes to furniture and food. However, Clinton noted that the U.S. still faces a generation of women who for the first time may not even outlive their mothers, particularly those with little education. This reversal of the American Dream has dire consequences for the example America hopes to set abroad.
Clinton closed by saying that we must ratify the UN convention on the illumination of all discrimination in order to stand up for the women in Afghanistan and speak up for the promise of the Arab Spring abroad, while promoting equal pay and extended family benefits at home. If Margaret's Thatcher has left one legacy for women in politics was certainly echoed by Clinton and her ongoing strength, "you may have to fight a battle more than once, to win it."