What Hillary Clinton Did for Women (and Men) Everywhere

Karin Kamp at The Story Exchange By Karin Kamp at The Story Exchange

Clinton fought for women’s rights, encouraged entrepreneurship and made it okay to look your age

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Women in Peru

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Women Exec. Dir. Michelle Bachelet visit the textile production and trade center of Gamarra in Lima, Peru. Photo: [flickr] UN Women Gallery

As Hillary Clinton contemplates her next move, one thing is clear: as secretary of state she changed the narrative on women by championing their social, political and economic rights around the world.

Clinton’s long-term commitment to the cause of women led her to create the position of United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues in the beginning of her term in 2009. The aim of the office is to ensure that women’s issues are fully integrated in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy.

“Hillary Clinton has been superb in shining a global spotlight on women’s rights and empowerment,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof told The Story Exchange.

Clinton visited more countries than any other secretary of state – clocking in close to a million miles of travel to 112 countries – and on most trips, visiting women’s projects, businesses and activists was a priority for her.

“Hillary Clinton has been superb in shining a global spotlight on women’s rights and empowerment” – Nicholas Kristof

Kristof, who is co-author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, recalls Clinton meeting sex trafficking survivors in Cambodia, a girl who had escaped a child marriage in Yemen, and anti-trafficking activists in India.

Although such visits weren’t widely covered by the media, Kristof says they clearly made a difference. “[The visits] galvanized those organizations and brought them to the attention of the US Embassy and local leaders,” he said.

It’s the Economy … Stupid

In her 2011 speech for the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Women and the Economy Summit, Clinton made the global business case for women calling them a “vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come.”

“She was making a statement to all of us that meeting with local women is a policy priority for her and that it should be a priority for everyone else committed to inclusive prosperity” – Elizabeth Vazquez

“When it comes to the enormous challenge of our time—to systematically and relentlessly pursue more economic opportunity in our lands—we don’t have a person to waste and we certainly don’t have a gender to waste,” Clinton said.

She went on to urge policymakers to take concrete steps to “successfully eliminate barriers and bring women into all our economic sectors.” Clinton seemed to be adding to her infamous “women’s rights are human rights” argument, this time, attempting to educate the world that empowering women economically will benefit everyone, including men.

Clinton: Blocks on Women are Hurting Global Growth

Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International, a U.S.-based nonprofit that works to connect women’s businesses globally with commercial opportunities, says she witnessed first hand Clinton’s commitment to women’s issues on trips abroad, in countries including Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Peru and Russia.

Vazquez recalls one trip where local meeting organizers were annoyed that Clinton’s first priority upon landing in a Latin American country was to meet with women leaders and then meet with government officials.

“She was making a statement to all of us that meeting with local women is a policy priority for her and that it should be a priority for everyone else committed to inclusive prosperity,” Vazquez says.

Vazquez adds that she has seen situations where Clinton, as well as Melanne Verveer, Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, would engage with policymakers who either do not understand or care about issues surrounding women and girls.

Instead of these issues being swept under the table, Clinton and Verveer would ensure that by the end of the negotiations they were back on the agenda.

“I doubt most people understand the degree to which these two champions and the dedicated staff who support them have fundamentally changed the way the world talks about the role of women and girls,” Vazquez says. [Verveer is leaving her post when Clinton steps down.]

Clinton Detractors

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Penn State University on April 20, 2008. Photo: [flickr] pennestatelive

But others, like Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, harshly criticize Hillary Clinton for her handling of women’s issues in one of the most prominent positions on the global stage.

In an op-ed in Commentary magazine, Rubin blasts Clinton saying she will not be remembered for empowering women globally but rather for betraying them.

He criticizes Clinton, for example, for pursuing peace talks with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan. “Reinstalling the Taliban — who remain as ferociously opposed to women’s rights as ever — is nothing other than embracing defeat.” he wrote.

Bloomberg reported that “Afghan women activists and some in the U.S. government have expressed concern that the Afghan government, in its desire to take insurgents off the battlefield and end the war, might bend to Taliban demands to curtail women’s advances.”

When the U.S. was exploring peace talks last March, Clinton said any deal reached from talks with insurgents must abide by the Afghan constitution, which enshrines rights for women.

Madam President?

Clinton has not only championed women’s issues globally, but also broken down barriers when it comes to women and leadership, according to Nichola Gutgold, Associate Professor of Politics at Penn State University and author of “Almost Madam President: Why Hillary Clinton “Won” in 2008”

Gutgold says Clinton has been a “spectacular role model” for women both in her position as secretary of the state and in her bid for the White House in 2008.

“I think many women in public life do not walk, they run to the nearest facial surgeon to get adapted to the TV screen. Clinton showed us that looking your age is something to be proud of.” — Nichola Gutgold

“One of our big problems in the United States is that we haven’t elected a woman president … Our daughters look at their social studies books that list the pictures of presidents of the country since George Washington and they determine at the tender age of 12 that ‘it’s not going to happen,’” Gutgold says.

She calls Clinton the first non-symbolic female candidate that helped us picture a woman in the White House.

“Clinton helped change the psyche of the American public to believe that a woman can be effective as president of the U.S.,” she says. “She gave us not only an image of a woman president but the imagination that a woman can do it.”

President Obama’s praise of Clinton as one of his closest advisers in a side by side interview on 60 minutes this week helped add to that image.

Gutgold also says Hillary Clinton helped women’s leadership in the U.S. by being out there in public life, in her 60s, with a face that appears to be free of plastic surgery, botox, etc. and looking “appropriate” for her age.

“She does not look like a woman in her 60s who has been redone to look 40. I think many women in public life do not walk, they run to the nearest facial surgeon to get adapted to the TV screen,” she says. Clinton showed us that looking your age is something to be proud of.

So will Clinton run for president? Who knows. This week on NPR she said that in her next move she wants to be involved in philanthropy, advocacy, and “working on issues like women and girls that I care deeply about.” That’s great news.

Posted: January 31, 2013

Karin Kamp at The Story ExchangeWhat Hillary Clinton Did for Women (and Men) Everywhere
  • jasper07

    Hillary would be better heading up a women’s organization like NOW. Not President of the United States. She was an abysmal Secretary of State. Ask the Egyptians, the Libyans, the Syrians, etc. Let’s face facts and not desires.

  • divorcecoach

    I read this article with the hopes of discovering what Hillary Clinton has done for women in the United States all these many years for which she has had the honor of serving the people of NY, as Senator, as Sec of State and as wife of the President. Your article lists nothing but baseless platitudes. No facts. I am not fond of her and simply because she is female is NOT sufficient enough to have her be President.

    • PamelaWatters

      Bernie Sanders is a good supporter of women’s rights. Hillary Clinton is a great leader of women’s rights in this country and others.

      • divorcecoach

        Except for those women who have alleged that her husband raped them. Those women…Hillary didn’t do so much for…..

        • PamelaWatters

          Are you talking about Bernie’s gang rape fantasy essay? I think you are confused.

        • PamelaWatters

          Alleged is the key word. I think what your question reveals is some of the kind of bubbling misogyny that’s going on in this campaign. Talk about the issues. Let’s talk about—it’s a fair debate: Do you think she’s too hawkish? Fine, don’t support her. You think, you know, Bernie is a better candidate? Wonderful. You know? But to demonize her, in any way—to demonize her because of her marriage, to demonize her because of her husband, to demonize her because of her gender—That’s misogynistic.

          • divorcecoach

            I have zero idea what you are talking about “gang rape fantasy”..I was referring, as is appropriate, to your comment on HIllary being great leader on women’s rights. You may not like it, but a true leader for women’s issues would be outraged and investigating those allegations. You assume alleged means it didn’t happen, I don’t. I assume alleged means, investigate and let’s see what the evidence says. That didn’t’ happen and as first lady, as a NY Senator, as an officer of the Court, it was HER obligation. I don’t care for her and THAT is one of the many reasons. But, she’s a “great one for women’s rights” as was so very clear when she just recently was dismissive to the young girl who questioned her. Or perhaps, HIllary’s supporting a bankruptcy bill that she KNEW was going to harm single mothers….yeah, she’s great for women all right…so long as you agree with her and don’t get in her way.

  • Kate Abbe

    We have been complaining for a while now about women’s “cultural image” and the unreasonable expectations put on females. Hillary is just the perfect person to talk about this very thing! Game on, people. Hillary will do tons for women whether she wins the Oval Office or not. Am looking forward to seeing what else develops. A woman who has literally accomplished much for women all around the world. And the detractors if you’ll notice are not people in the know but look at their names. Americans have been brainwashed about Hillary. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is full of admiration for Hillary. Because she helped them so much. Hillary made it so that minors are not jailed in adult prisons in my state. That happened when she was governor of Arkansas. Long live Hillary. Much love!

    • Nosteratella

      Hillary was never governor of Arkansas. Her husband was, for nine years.

  • Linda Woods Alexander

    Hillary Clinton is by far the only woman on the horizon even minimally qualified to be President. She is PHENOMENALLY QUALIFIED…and if she should happen to be passed over again, this country will have lost its chance to make history with the most capable and world-wide respected woman in history…and her life story will be told for many years. It would definitely be our loss as Americans.

  • Agonizing Truth

    How on earth is Hillary Clinton even considered some kind of a feminist icon or role model? She is a total coattail rider if ever there was one. Hillary Clinton would be a great big nothing if it wasn’t for being married to Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas and then the president of the United States.

    Ask yourself: had Hillary married Joe Schmoe the Arkansas grocery clerk do you really think you or I or anyone for that matter would have heard of her? Do you think she’d be running for president? Think about it. The first anyone ever heard of Hillary Clinton on a national level was as first lady, the wife of Pres. Clinton. She parlayed that into getting elected as a senator from New York, something which she would never have been able to do on her own merit. She runs for president in 2008 and loses to Obama in the primaries, makes a deal with him to drop out of the race and endorse him for president in exchange for being appointed as secretary of state when he gets elected. Obama gets elected and he appoints Hillary as secretary of state and she proceeds to be terrible at the job. What makes anyone think doing a terrible job as secretary of state qualifies someone to be president?

    And again, as I said nobody would have ever heard of her if she married Joe Schmoe the grocery clerk instead of Bill Clinton. Total coattail rider. The opposite of a self-made woman. This is some kind of feminist role model for women??! Are you effing kidding me??!!

  • This is sad… she has done nothing… ?

    ….. please, just simply list what she has done…..

  • Mark N Starla Traina



    Hillary Clinton claims Democratic presidential nomination: Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic presidential primary in New Jersey, further extending her lead against rival Bernie Sanders on one of the last days of voting.