Reflecting on History

Fab Female Friday

Teen Advisor Karina Jougla and Director Melissa Hillebrenner at the Roosevelt Institute on September 12, 2014.

Twenty years ago some big things happened for women and last week I had the honor of commemorating these moments.

In 1994, Cairo held the International Conference on Population and Development, which set out an agenda and action plan for all of us around the world to be able to realize our full rights to reproductive health. This action plan, adopted by 179 countries, guides the work of UNFPA – a key partner of Girl Up. Last week I heard firsthand from Secretary John Kerry (then senator) and Vice Chair of UN Foundation, Tim Wirth (also then Senator) about their experiences preparing for and participating in this momentous conference.

The next year, 1995 was the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing hosted by UNIFEM – now UN Women – another key partner for Girl Up. I attended Roosevelt Institute’s Women and Girls Rising event reflecting on where we’ve come since Beijing and what is still left to do. Hillary Clinton, who was both in Beijing and at the Roosevelt Institute, reflected on how she had been out to “push the envelope on women’s issues” and all there is still left for us to do.

I shared the stage with one of our first Teen Advisors, Karina Jougla, one of the only youth speakers at the Roosevelt Institute. But I also shared the stage with a lot of amazing women leaders, key experts on these issues – Judith Bruce of Population Council, Carol Bellamy of UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education and Secretary Clinton herself (yes, I got a group picture!). Two key things came up and stuck with me:

1. Are we acting enough or do we just keep talking?
2. Do the younger generations of women know what happened twenty years ago – the history of the fight that laid the groundwork for the progress that has been achieved so far for women?

I walked away with a sense of responsibility – to act and to educate. I encourage you to learn more about the events held in Cairo and Beijing twenty years ago and to read the action plans. Let’s honor the leaders who laid this ground work for us twenty years ago. And twenty years from now, I hope we can look back on the tremendous progress we made to advance the rights of women and girls – and that you and I were there together, doing this incredible work.