By Gerard Aziakou (AFP) – Mar 12, 2010
UNITED NATIONS — Calling the subjugation of women a threat to American security, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a vibrant plea to give equal rights to women around the world.
"The subjugation of women is a direct threat to the security of the United States," the chief US diplomat told an international women's conference which closed Friday at UN headquarters.
"The status of the world's women is not only a matter of justice. It is also a political, economic, and social imperative," she added to loud applause from dozens of government ministers and more than 2,000 women activists attending the meeting.
The 12-day conference was held to review progress since the adoption of the declaration at the 1995 world conference on women in Beijing.
That declaration is the most comprehensive global policy framework to advance the goal of women's empowerment and gender equality around the world.
Clinton noted that 15 years after Beijing, it was time to declare "with one voice that women's progress is human progress and human progress is women's progress, once and for all."
She said that principle was also at the heart of US foreign policy.
"We believe that women are critical to solving virtually every challenge we face as individual nations and as a community of nations," Clinton noted. "The world cannot make lasting progress if women and girls are denied their rights and left behind."
And she said Washington was implementing this approach in its strategy in Afghanistan, stressing the need to involve Afghan women "at every step of securing and rebuilding their country."
After conferring with the US chief diplomat, UN chief Ban Ki-moon hailed her "leadership and commitment for gender empowerment."
Recalling that Clinton had led the US delegation at the Beijing conference 15 years ago, he told her: "All your life you have been speaking out for the central truth that women are the key to all our hopes: development, peace, and a better world."
And Ban vowed to continue to make women's empowerment "a priority issue."
In his own address to the conference Thursday, the UN chief called on the world to unite "to demand accountability for the violations of the rights of women and girls."
"Whether it is domestic violence, sex trafficking, so-called 'honor' crimes or female genital cutting, violence against women and girls continues to be a horrific and all-too-common crime," he said.
"We must address the roots of violence against women by eradicating discrimination and changing the mindsets that perpetuate it," he added.
The conference ended Friday with the adoption of seven resolutions aimed at improving the economic status of women around the world, combating genital mutilation of women and girls and ending maternal mortality.
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