|Air Date: April 7, 1998||Program 9814|
(This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely
distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)
MARY GRAY DAVIDSON: This is Common Ground.
HILLARY CLINTON: Too many women in too many countries speak the same language of silence. There must be freedom if we are to speak, and yes, there must be power if we are to be heard.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Today around the world appalling abuses are being committed against women. These include domestic violence, dowry murders, mutilation, and the forcing of young girls into prostitution. Some say all this is cultural and there's nothing we can do about it. I say it's criminal and we each have a responsibility to stop it.
DAVIDSON: American leaders making women a foreign policy priority, on this edition of Common Ground. Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It's produced by the Stanley Foundation. I'm Mary Gray Davidson.
In the words of the late Bella Abzug, the American feminist and politician, power won't change the nature of women; women will change the nature of power. Today, some of the most powerful people in the country are women, including Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State; Attorney General Janet Reno; and cabinet members Donna Shalala and Alexis Herman. And while she doesn't hold political office, First Lady Hillary Clinton is an advocate for women's rights around the world.
CLINTON: One of the most moving experiences I had was in New Delhi when I met a young Indian woman who gave me a poem she had written. And in it she said, "Too many women in too many countries speak the same language of silence. There must be freedom if we are to speak, and yes, there must be power if we are to be heard."
DAVIDSON: Mrs. Clinton was speaking this past March at a White House ceremony in honor of International Women's Day. In 1995 the First Lady made the statement that's been often repeated since, that "women's rights are human rights." She reminded her audience of that fact as the world this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
CLINTON: Woven into that document are timeless beliefs that must always set the standard for how we treat each other, in every part of the world. The Declaration puts it simply: all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and right. All human beings. Not just men. Not just those with particular skin colors or religions. And on International Women's Day we want to commit ourselves to expanding the circle of human dignity to encompass all human beings: men and women, boys and girls. Our nation's assistance and leadership is essential. I have visited women's healthcare clinics that we have helped open in Central Asia. I have talked with refugees from war and genocide who are rebuilding their lives in Rwanda and Bosnia thanks to our assistance. I have learned about a joint campaign to warn women and girls in Ukraine about those who might exploit them through trafficking. All because our government, universities, hospitals, businesses, NGO's, citizens, all are committed to expanding that circle of human dignity to every women.
THERESA LOAR: The First Lady, in every country she travels to, she always seeks out the opportunity to meet with and hear from women leaders. Whether they're leaders of grass roots organizations or leaders in their government or leaders in the private sector, and from these meetings she hears a lot about what the status of women are, what their concerns are, what kind of help or partnership they are seeking from the United States. And she is very warmly received.
DAVIDSON: This is Theresa Loar, the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues at the U.S. State Department. She works closely with the First Lady and Madeleine Albright on developing programs for women.
LOAR: The kind of response that she elicits from just the general public is extraordinary. It's quite an experience to travel with the First Lady overseas. I'll never forget a trip in northern Thailand. She traveled all the way up to northern Thailand to visit sites, schools and institutions, that are focusing on the needs of young women who have been sold into trafficking, who have had very difficult, horrendous, experiences—some of whom are sick and are coming back to their communities and how they're being cared for. But also other programs that emphasize other opportunities for young girls and focus on their educational experience. And I will never forget the reaction of these people when the First Lady of the United States, when Hillary Rodham Clinton, comes into their hill tribe village to support what they're doing to educate their girls, to offer them other opportunities. I'll give you another example. In Kazakhstan this is more recently, this November the First Lady did a major trip to a number of the countries that were in the former Soviet Union, and in Kazakhstan she was asked to speak to a conference of women leaders, women who want to be leaders or are leaders or are on their way up to be leaders, but who are focusing on women's role in public life. And their reaction to the First Lady was just extraordinary. This was very empowering to them. And as they said, for the First Lady to have her main, the main focus of her visit to Kazakhstan be to meet with and to speak with women NGO's—first of all non-government leaders is very important, because emphasizing the role that non-government leaders have in building these democracies is important—but then also to be talking to women and to make women the focus of her visit, they take a lot away from that. I know that because we stay in close touch with these people that we do get to meet on some of these trips and they report back to us that after that visit, "we did this," and "we had an opportunity to set up this network." And they value it very highly.
DAVIDSON: Secretary Albright has said women's issues are national security issues. Could you explain that statement a little more?
LOAR: If, I think it is fair to say that the advancement of women is a national security issue. If we look at what democracies are flourishing around the world, and we look at how to help these democracies get on their feet, getting women an opportunity to play a role in public life encouraging them to play their role as citizens, this is all very important. This is for the national security of these countries. Now if we look at how societies operate, and whether it's refugee assistance or environmental issues, women play key roles in all of this. And the more we empower women and assure their economic self-sufficiency and have their health needs and educational needs addressed, these build strong democracies. And democracies generally don't start wars. So I think we can see a very clear line between supporting women, getting them on their feet, strong democracies, and national security.
DAVIDSON: Congress created the post of Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues in 1994, and that was to promote the human rights of women within U.S. foreign policy. How has the appointment of a woman Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who is the first woman ever in that position, affected your work and then the integration of women's rights within U.S. foreign policy?
LOAR: Well Mary, I started in this position just a few months before Secretary Albright became our Secretary of State. And I can say that her leadership and her very clear articulation of U.S. support for these issues that affect the lives of women and girls has been a tremendous benefit. When our Secretary of State indicates her support for an issue, as she has for women's human rights and the advancement of women, it's very clear to the State Department what her priorities are. And it's not just her strong speeches and her very clear statements, it's her actions as well. For example, when the Secretary traveled to Pakistan recently, she made an extraordinary effort and went out of her way to leave the capital of Pakistan and travel out to the refugee camps where many Afghan women are living and some who have lived there for more than 20 years. And her travel there really sent the message of U.S. support for these women. She had an opportunity to meet with them in a small meeting. She heard their concerns. She said very clearly that the education of girls is very important, that girls are educated in these refugee camps. And I think that sends a message across the border to Afghanistan to the Taliban. It sends a message around the world that this is an important priority for the United States, that the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan is very important.
She raises these issues as well on the governmental level. When she traveled to Israel recently, she raised the issue of trafficking of women and girls from the former Soviet Union to Israel. She did bring this issue into the discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu. And the follow-through from the Israeli government has been extraordinary. Countries are responsive to this. When Madeleine Albright speaks, people listen.
DAVIDSON: I'm curious, since Secretary Albright and also First Lady Hillary Clinton are known for bringing up women's issues in their travels. I'm wondering, how they are received, especially in some of the more conservative countries of the world, where the treatment of women may differ from here in the U.S.? Do they object to the Secretary or the First Lady perhaps meddling in their affairs?
LOAR: Well, let me talk about Secretary Albright, to say that this is a person of extraordinary vibrancy and charisma and charm. So she is welcomed with great respect and with great interest everywhere that she travels around the world. Recently she was in ,I'll go back to another Middle East example, where she met with a number of countries who comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council. And that includes Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others. And at the end of the conversation on a number of security issues, she raised the issue, the status of women in their societies. And as Secretary Albright says, they chuckled at first. But they did have a discussion then and she said she'd welcome the opportunity to raise the issue with them another time. And she did, just a few weeks later when she met this same group up at the United Nations. So this is quite extraordinary that, the degree to which the Secretary takes these issues and weaves them into the foreign policy issues that she works so hard on across the world.
DAVIDSON: And on International Women's Day last month, Secretary Albright announced some of the newest programs for women, including an additional $2.5 million to help the women of Afghanistan.
ALBRIGHT: And it is truly a priceless opportunity to be able to put all our efforts into empowering women exactly where we belong in the mainstream of American foreign policy. Last night I returned from a trip that began in Ukraine, where the government has made an extraordinary request. It has asked, and we have agreed, to collaborate on a joint strategy to combat trafficking in women and girls to and from their country. Our goal is to make this a model of international cooperation and to mobilize people everywhere to respond to this pernicious trafficking in human beings, with a stop light visible around the equator and from pole to pole. During the past year I've traveled to every corner of the earth and wherever I can I meet with representatives of the human rights community and with NGOs working to advance the status of women. It is incredible and inspiring to see the work that is being done as women reach out to other women, often at enormous sacrifice and with great courage. Sometimes, as in Bosnia or Rwanda, the stories of suffering are heartbreaking, and one can only marvel at people's ability to endure so much loss themselves and yet still have so much good to give to others.
Most unforgettably, last November I visited a refugee camp near the Afghan border. In Afghanistan all the major factions are guilty of violence against women. But the most powerful, the Taliban, are determined to drag Afghan women from the dawn of the 21st century back to the 13th. The only female rights they seem to recognize are the rights to remain silent and invisible, uneducated and unemployed. Afghan women have asked for our help. We cannot and we will not abandon them (applause). We are providing new, increased, and focused support for educating and training Afghan women to increase their capabilities and develop their skills. And we have made it clear that if the Taliban or any other Afghan faction want international acceptance, they must treat women not as chattel but as people, and they must respect human rights.
Of course the situation in Afghanistan may be extreme but it is not an exception. Today around the world appalling abuses are being committed against women. These include domestic violence, dowry murders, mutilation, and the forcing of young girls into prostitution. Some say all this is cultural and there's nothing we can do about it. I say it's criminal and we each have a responsibility to stop it (applause).
DAVIDSON: Twenty years ago the United States signed an international agreement called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. As with all international treaties, it must be ratified by the U.S. Senate. And to this date, 161 nations have ratified the women's treaty, but not the United States. And in March, President Clinton sent a letter to the Senate urging them to ratify the Convention this year. We'll pause here for a short break. And when Common Ground returns, we'll focus on the international efforts to combat violence against women.
CLINTON: It doesn't matter if it's in war or peace, in our homes or our streets; no woman should ever be degraded by violence. Violence against women is a violation of human rights.
DAVIDSON: Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a non-partisan organization that also publishes the monthly magazine, World Press Review. Through its programs and publications, the Stanley Foundation works to promote thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs. Printed transcripts and audio cassettes are available of this Common Ground program; at the end of the broadcast, I'll give you details on how you can order.
JANET RENO: In 1994 President Clinton led the effort and signed the Violence Against Women Act, as part of his historic crime act.
DAVIDSON: U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was also speaking on International Women's Day in March.
RENO: The impact of the Act has been felt not only within the United States but also beyond our border. Collaboration across national boundaries has become particularly important in recent years, as the world has been on the move and as crime becomes increasingly transnational.
DAVIDSON: As part of the Violence Against Women Act, President Clinton created a new office on domestic violence, within the Justice Department. Bonnie Campbell, the former Attorney General of the State of Iowa, heads this office and finds that her work within the United States resonates around the world.
BONNIE CAMPBELL: Mrs. Clinton, and Secretary Albright for that matter, refer a lot of foreign visitors to our office to discuss what they term as technical assistance, which could range from how do you get this kind of law passed? particularly you will get that question from the newly-emerging democracies, from people who don't have a lot of experience with democracy, who literally are asking that question, "How do you get a law passed?," to people who maybe are much farther along but hadn't thought about the concept of stalking. Or even just earlier this week, I met with a delegation from Italy. First of all Madeleine Albright, Secretary Albright, had raised the issue of trafficking in women and the increasing incidence of it in eastern Europe and Europe.
DAVIDSON: You've brought up the topic of trafficking. And maybe we should define the term. What all is encompassed in the trafficking of women?
CAMPBELL: It can be trafficking for forced prostitution or sexual exploitation. It can be trafficking for slave labor, somebody who is hiding away perhaps illegal immigrants to work in sweatshops. It can be trafficking for domestic servitude, which is really quite old in our country. Debt bondage. All kinds of activities fall under the broad rubric of trafficking. And pursuant to the President's directive to the Attorney General, we will be analyzing whether the laws we have now are adequate to get at all forms of trafficking. And also to look at, do our laws make sense in terms of how we can cooperate with our neighbors around the world? And where we can we would like to be able to, for example, share information about intelligence that other countries have. I think it's useful for example, for us to know where are the countries of origin and where are the countries of destination? Who are the likely victims? Who are the likely perpetrators? If the Italians, for example, would learn that organized criminal enterprises are really behind trafficking in the U.S., or in Europe, that would be an important piece of information for us to know. That kind of sharing. And also, sharing of ideas. How do we reach out to the victims? There are many obstacles to discovery of trafficking. And not the least of which is that the victims are afraid. They may be illegal, undocumented immigrants. They may be afraid of retaliation, particularly if there is an organized criminal enterprise. They may fear deportation.
DAVIDSON: And they might not know their rights.
CAMPBELL: Absolutely. May not have, because of language barriers and cultural barriers and isolation, any way at all to communicate. They often, particularly in sweatshop or brothel prostitution situations, the people are completely invisible. They're not walking the streets. If they were, someone would discover them. They're locked away in dingy old rooms which they literally never leave and they don't have telephones and they may not speak the language and they don't have family; they have no one to turn to and they're scared.
DAVIDSON: And is trafficking increasing worldwide?
CAMPBELL: There certainly is a sense of that.
DAVIDSON: Is it because borders are more permeable, with a lot of countries opening up, things like the fall of the Soviet Union and those countries?
CAMPBELL: Definitely that's a factor. And the economic circumstances in many places of the world make the kind of trickery and treachery that deceives and induces victims, really more likely. If you're in desperate economic circumstances, as many women in the former Soviet Union or eastern Europe, and somebody comes along and says, "You are so beautiful; if you lived in the U.S. you could be a model," and they show her a picture of Cindy Crawford, and they say, you know, "For $2,000 (or whatever their money is), I could do that for you. And here, I've got these documents. And I'll get you there. You'll have to pay me back, but once you're a famous model you'll have more money than you know how to spend."
DAVIDSON: And these are very vulnerable women.
CAMPBELL: Very vulnerable.
DAVIDSON: Sometimes girls.
CAMPBELL: Well, they're often literally children. And too, for me to even imagine that I'm having a conversation in 1998 about the bondage and slavery of human beings is almost more than my mind can tolerate.
DAVIDSON: In March of this year President Clinton announced that the United States is committing an extra $10 million to combat violence against women around the world. How will that money be used?
CAMPBELL: For example, maybe going to Russia to do a conference on domestic violence. Or going to Russia to do a conference on violence against women. The idea of technical assistance is that we all sit down and figure out how to work together. And we can maybe demonstrate how we got our law passed; what's in our law; how they might shape similar legislation in their country; do some joint training for law enforcement/prosecution purposes. So that we all, after a period of time, we all end up roughly on the same page about these issues, which will make law enforcement I think easier. But I would imagine that the money from the State Department will be put to very good use to help identify ways that other countries can strengthen their laws and deepen their law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts, as we are in the process of doing here. And I do want to be very clear about that: as we are in the process of doing. Because it wouldn't be very sincere to say that the U.S. has solved it's problems of violence against women, because that's simply not accurate.
DAVIDSON: Most advocates for women's rights would agree with Bonnie Campbell that the United States still has much work to do to improve the status of women here, but during the White House ceremonies for International Women's Day, Saisuree Chuskun, a cabinet minister from Thailand, praised the United States for its leadership in women's rights.
SAISURI CHUDIKIN: When Mrs. Clinton visited Thailand a little over a year ago, 16 of us women gathered around here to share some our work experience on women and children. We never really had a chance to share our thoughts among ourselves in a group before. And Mrs. Clinton became the catalyst and she did not even know it. She also went to the northern part of Thailand to visit a home which helps young hill tribe girls at risk. This place helps girls who come from homes where parents are drug addicts and who are ready to send or to sell these girls into prostitution, have other options in life. Her visit drew a lot of attention to this problem. During our conversation at the round table with her, I mentioned our deep concern on violence against women and children in Thailand. She then told us about the Office of Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice. This year, the USIA in Thailand has offered to financially assist us in organizing a national seminar, a first of its kind, on violence against women and children. As a person who has been working in the area of women's and children's development for a couple of decades, I very much appreciate President Clinton's support for the advancement, and his concern for women and children. President Clinton, your appointment of many very capable women to important tasks and at a very high decision-making level, says a lot to the world. To care enough to eliminate violence against women by establishing an office dealing with the problem is another example of your action. When I saw my parliamentarian friends about this after having learned it from Mrs. Clinton, they were surprised that the great world leader cares for something which usually is neglected by many leaders. We applaud you for your efforts and admire your courage to do good things on behalf of the women and children of the world. Leadership says a lot and your work as such not only affects Americans but also influences those of us in other countries.
DAVIDSON: Saisuri Chuskun is a Senator and Cabinet Member in the Thai government. We also heard from First Lady Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Attorney General Janet Reno, Theresa Loar, the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues in the State Department, and Bonnie Campbell, the Director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice. For Common Ground I'm Mary Gray Davidson.
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