Eleven Words

Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer speaks at a meeting with members of Chinese womens groups. The meeting was hosted by Mary Kay Huntsman, wife of the U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, in Beijing, China, on May 24, 2010. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Melanne Verveer serves as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

As we commemorate International Human Rights Day today, December 10, I can’t help but recall the moment 17 years ago in Beijing when then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton proclaimed, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.”

Today, for many of us, these 11 words may seem obvious, even instinctive. But in 1995, they were a revelation. I remember being among the delegates at the Fourth World Conference on Women, and feeling a current of excitement wash across the room. It was perhaps one of the first times the world had heard a person of global stature assert at a global forum in such unequivocal terms that women’s rights and human rights were one and the same.

Today, in my official travels, I still meet women all over the world who tell me how those eleven words nearly two decades ago changed their lives. They helped raise the… more »

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