U.S. leaders must openly reject injustice and violence against women while promoting women’s leadership in global security, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged during a Gaston Hall speech Monday morning, her second visit to Georgetown University in two years.
“No one should ever underestimate the power of women and girls not only to improve their own lives, but to lift up their families, communities and entire nations,” Clinton said. “Through it all, I have seen that women are not only victims of war and conflict, but agents of change, makers of peace and drivers of progress.
Speaking to a crowd that filled the first floor of Gaston Hall, Clinton called on men to join women as allies against misogyny.
“We want an inclusive, tolerant society,” Clinton said. “That includes everyone — not just some of us, but all of us.”
Clinton’s address, the keynote of this year’s Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security ceremony, celebrated the peace-building work and empowerment efforts of award recipients Nadia Murad, a former captive of the Islamic State group, and Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya refugee activist.
Clinton urged listeners to renew their passion for justice and to see Murad’s and Nu’s life stories as examples of courage and determination.
“Do not grow weary. Bring a sustained commitment. Think of these honorees. Don’t get discouraged,” Clinton said. “Draw hope and inspiration from each of them and leave here today with a renewed commitment to make your own mark on the word. I know that is what we need more than ever.”
Hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, the HRC Awards honor exceptional individuals who advance women’s role in peacemaking efforts. Clinton was an honorary founding chair of GIWPS, which launched in 2011.
GIWPS Executive Director Melanne Verveer (SLL ’66, GRD ’69), who served as U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues from 2009 to 2013, presented the awards to Murad and Nu. Verveer also honored BBC News international correspondent Lyse Doucet with the Global Trailblazer Award for her coverage of war in Africa and the Middle East and of violent conflict’s impact on women and children.
“There are many approaches to the complex work of building a sustainable peace or realizing the full development of our diverse societies,” Verveer said. “Yet one theme emerges: the importance that women are full participants and valued leaders in global affairs.”
Murad was the first United Nations goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking and one of thousands of Yazidi Kurdish women who were captured and enslaved by IS in Iraq. During the Islamic State’s 2014 military campaign in Iraq, up to 50,000 Yazidis were internally displaced, with thousands of women sexually assaulted.
“The synergy, uniting the efforts of all the members of the community against the force of evil, is very effective in telling the terrorist organizations, ‘We are united against you,’” Murad said.
Since her release from captivity, Murad has spoken at the United Nations and raised awareness of the problem of human trafficking, which disproportionately affects women and children. Murad was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
“Nadia’s resilience and dignity are the most powerful rejection of what ISIS stands for,” Verveer said.
Nu, a member of the persecuted Rohingya people in Myanmar, was freed in 2012 from political captivity with her family, pursued a law degree and founded two nongovernmental organizations that aim to empower Myanmar’s youth.
“When you are born to be a minority in a minority community, life is not easy,” Nu said. “But we have to be able to bring equality, peace and justice to our people.”
International observers, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have denounced Myanmar’s military action against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing. The UN estimates more than 737,000 Rohingya have been forced out of Myanmar over the past 15 months.
Clinton also denounced the persecution of the Rohingya people.
“The stories of the atrocities being committed against Rohingya women and girls … should horrify each and every one of us and more than that, should spur us all into action,” Clinton said. “This is not a partisan issue.”
Verveer also celebrated the journalistic work Doucet has conducted in conflict zones.
“Among her stories are the stories of women, which are often ignored in the geopolitical narratives,” Verveer said. “She never forgets their role in war and peace.”
Doucet praised the power of women in crafting peace and ensuring security.
“I’m just the storyteller,” Doucet said. “Women always want to tell their own stories. Sometimes they need journalists like me to amplify their voices.”
In her speech, Clinton also urged President Donald Trump to lead international efforts to combat climate change and called on him to re-enter the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in alternative energy sources.
“We are the only country left in the world [not in the agreement],” Clinton said. “Women once again will be primarily burdened with the problems of climate change.”
Clinton previously called for U.S. leaders to continue leading international peace-building efforts and advance the rights of women around the world during her March 2017 address at the Hillary Rodham Clinton awards, one of her first public speeches since losing to Trump in the November 2016 election.
Last year, Clinton honored four activists and leaders who pushed for women’s participation in the Colombian government’s 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia insurgency movement.
Reflecting on the progress made for women, Clinton said men and women must be united in standing for gender equality.
“We are not going back and women’s voices are not shutting up,” Clinton said.
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