Clinton making women her signature issue

Hillary Clinton, Mumbai, July 18, 2009 | INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images   Secretary Clinton said the words “women” or “woman” at least 450 times in public comments during her first five months at the State Department — twice as much as Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor, did, the Washington Post reports. It’s unambiguously clear that the secretary ...

582019_090818_ClintonWomen2.jpg
582019_090818_ClintonWomen2.jpg

 

Secretary Clinton said the words "women" or "woman" at least 450 times in public comments during her first five months at the State Department -- twice as much as Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor, did, the Washington Post reports.

It's unambiguously clear that the secretary of state is making women's empowerment her signature issue. Her eyes glistened with tears as she listened to rape survivors tell their stories in eastern Congo. She spent 90 mintues at the women-run Victoria Mxenge housing development in South Africa, twice the time she spent with the country's president. In India, she met with members of a women's self-help group, and earlier this year, she appointed the State Department's first ever women's issues ambassador.

Hillary Clinton, Mumbai, July 18, 2009 | INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton, Mumbai, July 18, 2009 | INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
 

Secretary Clinton said the words “women” or “woman” at least 450 times in public comments during her first five months at the State Department — twice as much as Condoleezza Rice, her predecessor, did, the Washington Post reports.

It’s unambiguously clear that the secretary of state is making women’s empowerment her signature issue. Her eyes glistened with tears as she listened to rape survivors tell their stories in eastern Congo. She spent 90 mintues at the women-run Victoria Mxenge housing development in South Africa, twice the time she spent with the country’s president. In India, she met with members of a women’s self-help group, and earlier this year, she appointed the State Department’s first ever women’s issues ambassador.

“We have to integrate women — or we’re going to be fired,” one State Department official joked during a meeting about an aid program, a source told the Washington Post. Such lighthearted comments convey the more serious message that women’s rights are no longer a second-tier back-burner issue, something to attend to after the “more important” issues are tackled.

Clinton “gets it” that investments in girls’ education, maternal health, and women’s microfinance enable women to stand up and change their societies from within. In the book Kabul Beauty School, about an American woman who set up a beauty school in Afghanistan, an Afghan woman explains why her conservative Muslim husband let her work outside the home: He’s unemployed, and her hairdressing work brings in money. A woman’s education and income power can change the internal dynamics of a household, and across many households, that can change a society. And societal change indeed affects those “more important” issues such as the Islamist extremism that fosters terrorism.

Referring to her trips abroad, Clinton told the Post, “My coming gives [women] a platform, which then gives us the chance to try and change the priorities of the governments.” That’s Clinton’s star power truly shining.

Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.