During the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session held in September 5th, 1995, representatives from over 180 nations met in Beijing to listen to a speech by Hillary Clinton on the rights of women (Friedman 313). Hillary talked about issues such as liberties and freedom that women were denied and stressed why it was imperative that they receive these rights.
Hillary spoke with courage and eloquence on human rights issues more than any U.S. dignitary has ever done while in China. She listed a catalogue of shocking abuses that women had to endure in many parts of the world and censured the Chinese government for attempting to limit open and free discussions on women issues during the conference.
It is against this background that this paper will address salient features covered in Hillary’s speech and what the society can learn from the issues she raised about the marginalization of women in the society.
It is worthy to mention that at the time Hillary delivered the speech, her husband (Bill Clinton) was the president of the U.S. The U.N conference was prepared to address the manner in which women around could be granted opportunities and more rights in the society (Friedman 313).
Hillary’s speech suggested ways in which these problems could to be corrected to achieve gender parity in all countries including the United States. Some of the issues she addressed at the conference included the imposed silence that repressive regimes laid on women and the forced prostitution that women in some countries were compelled to assume in order to earn income.
During her speech, Hillary asserted that “the great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere” (Clinton 2). She went on to explain why delegates at the conference had responsibilities to speak on behalf of women and not to merely state their personal opinions.
Hillary went on to discuss some of the problems facing women in America, “raising children on minimum wage, women who can’t afford health care or child care, women whose lives are threatened by violence” (Clinton 3). She further stated that “no one should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or political persecution, arrest or torture” (Clinton 4).
What Hillary implied by this statement was that all governments must respect the rights of women and allow them to air their problems without fear or intimidation (Friedman 322).
During her speech, Hillary talked about the silence of women when she asserted that, “For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence” (Clinton 4). She then suggested a swift plan to alleviate this problem, “But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard aloud and clearly” (Clinton 4). She then listed a number of human rights violations that women are subjected to around the world.
These include: incidences where women are burned alive; women dying in their homes; women raped within their homes; and girls and women forced to engage in prostitution for monetary gains. “It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food or drowned or suffocated or their spines are broken simply because they are born girls” (Clinton 4).
Hillary made reference to this statement because there were some unconfirmed reports that female infanticide and abortion was taking place in China while she delivered her speech at the UN Conference (Tyler 4).
Throughout her speech, Hillary not only focused on the past human rights violations on women but also dwelled on what needed to be done to restore gender parity in the society. She talked about how the absence of gender parity had the potential to stall the progress towards creating a prosperous and peaceful world.
In other words, she implied that gender equality was a critical ingredient towards the realization of social and economic prosperity in the world. The strategy that Hillary used in her speech was known as Agency. She used the agent (Hillary) to demonstrate to the audience at the conference the benefits of gender equality to the society. This strategy enabled her to convince the audience to consent to her point of view.
She further asserted that a country can only achieve democracy and freedom if women were allowed to take part in socio-political activities. Another point she made in a speech is that “Women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe” (Clinton 2).
Once again, Hillary used the Agency strategy (Hillary) to elucidate that real political and economic development was measured in terms of gender equality (Tyler 5).
Hillary used the agent strategy in many parts of her speech to emphasize why human rights violation against women should stop. She used this strategy from the onset of her speech by outlining the important roles of women in the society. Some of the roles she listed during her speech included: bearing children; domestic duties; working; and serving as leaders.
By elucidating on these critical roles, Hillary sought to convince the audience that women were capable to play any role in the society.
In spite of the fact that the original aim of the speech (act) was for Hillary (agent) to demonstrate her apparent displeasure with the manner in which women around the entire global are treated, she explained later that the main purpose of her speech was to express her disapproval against the China government for not promoting human rights as well as the rights of women. Hillary leveled specific allegations against the Chinese regime.
During her speech, Hillary raised issues such as forced abortions and incidences of infanticide that the Chinese government was accused of. Nonetheless, she placed these issues at the end of her list that included incidences of numerous human rights violations against women in other countries. Hillary used the agency strategy so as not to appear as direct when leveling these charges against the Chinese government (Tyler 7).
In spite of the fact that Hillary’s speech mainly dwelled upon the various abuses experienced by women all over the world (such as the burning of brides in India and prevalence of rape cases in Bosnia), her speech echoed what was happening in China. China was accused of silencing public criticisms on human rights abuses especially against women.
It is worthy to note that the China has been censured widely for compelling women to abort children or get sterilized as part of the government’s strategy to implement the one child per family policy. As she made references to forceful abortions, genital mutilations, sterilizations and domestic violence, Hillary reminded the delegates that women deserve to be treated as human beings (Clinton 4).
During her presidential campaign in 2008, Hillary used her speech at the 4th session UN World Conference on Women Rights to solicit for votes. Her speech was widely acknowledged for partially creating global awareness concerning the problems women had to endure around the world.
It goes without saying that women around the world experience some worst forms of human rights violations on daily basis. Hillary’s speech enlightened the audience at the plenary session on the experiences of women around the world, the manner in which they were being silenced as humans and how their human rights were contravened.
In spite of the fact that her speech was not aired by the Chinese media outlets, the speech came through successfully as a result of the impact it had on the delegates at the conference. There is no doubt that Hillary’s speech laid the basis on which women around the world can air their concerns freely (Tyler 8).
Clinton, Rodham H. “Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session.” 5 Sept. 1995. Web.
Friedman, Jay E. “Gendering the Agenda: The Impact of the Transnational Women’s Rights Movement at the UN Conferences of the 1990s.” Women’s Studies International Forum 26.4 (2003): 313-331. Print.
Tyler, Patrick E. “Hillary Clinton in China Details Abuse of Women.” 6 Sept. 1995. Web.