Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for increased commitment to women’s rights and human rights around the world and in the United States during a speech at Georgetown yesterday.
“Instead, our government is turning its back on refugees and people seeking asylum, ripping children away from their parents and waging an all-out, concerted assault on women’s health and rights,” she said.
Clinton’s remarks were part of the annual Hillary Rodham Clinton awards ceremony, hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS), which recognizes women’s role in advancing human rights, justice and peace around the world.
During the ceremony, she and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia presented awards to three women considered to be powerful voices for human rights.
“In the midst of all this tumult, women … are standing up to human rights abuses, shining a bright light on corruption and taking on urgent challenges, often in the face of the cruelest, most violent resistance imaginable,” said Clinton.
The awardees included Michelle Bachelet, chosen for her leadership as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and her precedent-setting achievement as the first female president of Chile between 2006-2010 and 2014-2018.
She previously served as the first female defense minister of Chile and as the inaugural executive director of UN Women.
“It is deeply troubling to see that instead of moving forward, some governments are pushing back on women’s rights,” Bachelet said. “There seems to be a renewed obsession of limiting and controlling women’s decisions over their bodies and lives.”
“I humbly accept the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award on behalf of all the women and girls who inspire me daily by defending human rights – in their governments, at work, at school, at home, in demonstrations,” she added.
Clinton praised Bachelet for championing women’s rights throughout her career, from passing sweeping policies to expand access to maternity care in Chile to requiring banks to disaggregate data by gender.
“After escaping a brutal dictatorship herself, Michelle has shown extraordinary courage in speaking out against human rights abuses from Myanmar to Syria to the United States border,” Clinton said.
Clinton also recognized two women working to combat gang violence and promote women’s rights in Central America – Virginia Marta Velásquez and Rosa Anaya.
Virginia Marta Velásquez provides services to survivors of gang violence and domestic violence in Choloma, Honduras through Movimiento de Mujeres de la Colonia López Arellano.
“Each day when we awaken, we hear news of yet another woman who has been murdered,” Velásquez said. “We need to continue to fight for our rights and fight against the patriarchy so our rights become more visible.”
Pervasive Gang Violence
Rosa Anaya is rehabilitating prison inmates in El Salvador through Second Chances, a Catholic Relief Services program. She provides vulnerable youth, gang members and inmates with skills, job access and psychosocial support, helping them become productive members of society.
El Salvador has the second-highest violent death rate in the world, after Syria, according to the Small Arms Survey.
Recent research by the institute found that pervasive gang violence in places such as El Salvador actually meets the legal definition of “war.”
“Greta Thunberg is angry and I am angry too,” said Anaya. “What kind of a society have we created that our children think they are more valued in a gang than in their homes?
“We can focus on the problem or we can start to be creative,” she added.
“For Michelle, for Marta, and Rosa, human rights are personal — and they should be for the rest of us too,” said Clinton.
Last year, the awards were presented to Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad – who subsequently received a Nobel Peace Prize – Rohingya activist Wai Wai Nu and BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.
Clinton is the honorary founding chair of GIWPS, which examines and highlights the role of women in peace and security efforts worldwide through cutting edge research, global convenings, and strategic partnerships.
“The Institute is the first of its kind dedicated to the idea that women’s full participation in peace and security should no longer be relegated to the margins of international affairs because their participation makes all of us more secure,” Clinton said at Georgetown yesterday.
The institute is led by Melanne Verveer, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.