Large Steps Towards Change

Events , Leadership , Supporters in Action

The Best Buy Theater in Midtown Manhattan is a venue that commands the likes of musicians like Earl Sweatshirt, Fifth Harmony, and the Vamps.  However on Monday morning, March 9, the hundreds of people who gathered there wanted to hear the findings of the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings: The Full Participation Report.” The report, entitled “Not There: A Data Driven Analysis of Gender Equality” is a study on the status of gender equality since 1995, when this issue was raised at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

As Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced the event, she rocked the crowd with her inspiring words, “There has never been a better time in history to be born female. The gains show progress is possible. But the data shows how far we still have to go.”

Key highlights from the report and data include the fact that the rate of maternal mortality has been cut in half since 1995, and the gap between the number of boys and girls completing primary school globally has nearly closed.

However, progress is still slow in women’s economic participation, leadership and security. The report challenges the world to no longer overlook the potential of half the population and to use 21st century technologies to realize gender equality.

Mrs. Clinton shared the stage with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton and philanthropist Melinda Gates. The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation organized the No Ceilings/Not There event not only to report the study findings, but also to showcase more than 20 activist and policy makers who are working to advance women’s issues. For example, as former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer stated, “people need to stop looking at women as victims and start looking at us as the leaders we are.”

Shabana Basiji-Rasikh is a woman who was once a victim and now is a leader of her community in Afghanistan. She was a child at the time that the Taliban first took over and banned girls from going to school, but that did not stop her. She continued her education at a secret school and when she would get scared for her safety, her father would say, “Education is the only thing no one can take away from you.” At the age of 12 when the Taliban were removed from power, she was able to get a formal education and earned a scholarship to attend Middlebury College in the United States. Today she is the president and co-founder of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), and the countries first boarding school for women.

One such activist is our own Girl Up Teen Advisor Morgan Wood, who was introduced to the stage by Chelsea Clinton and given the honor of introducing the former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. When Mrs. Sirleaf took the stage, she powerfully said, “The glass ceiling that kept women from leadership in Africa for 50 years has been broken – and I broke it.”

Mrs. Sirleaf recalled how a girl in a rural school walked up to her and said that she wanted to be president. “Ten years ago, she would probably be married off or on the streets marketing herself,” Mrs. Sirleaf said. “That young girl is what we take the challenge for – to make sure she stays in school, reaches her dreams, and can become president.”

As Susan B. Anthony once said, “The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race.” It is truly inspirational to see what the world will overcome in the next decades for full equality for women and girls!

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This is a guest blog by Laura Charney. Laura Charney is a student at Briarcliff High School. She founded her school’s Girl Up Club and has served as Club Leader for the past two years.