Clinton calls on world to break down barriers holding back girls

COPENHAGEN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton called for renewed efforts to “break down the barriers holding back women and girls around the world” on Thursday.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets supporters at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S., May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

In a video address to Women Deliver, a major women’s health and rights conference, she said gender equality must be made a priority in the drive to meet new U.N. development goals.

“Two decades ago at the U.N. fourth world conference on women in Beijing we came together and said with one voice that women’s rights are human rights. And the gains we’ve made since then prove that progress is possible,” she said.

“But as you all know too well, our work is far from finished. This is an important moment as we chart a course to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals. We have to break down the barriers holding back women and girls around the world.”

More than 5,500 delegates from over 160 countries - including world leaders, ministers, health experts, economists, business leaders, activists, royalty and celebrities - have attended the four-day conference in Copenhagen.

Discussions focused on how to put girls and women at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by world leaders last year to fight inequality and extreme poverty.

“Gender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, must be a core priority,” Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in the race to the White House, said in the unscheduled video address.

“To get there we need greater political will and resources, and we need to continue to invest in more and better data to measure progress.

“The Women Deliver summit is critical to this work,” Clinton added. “You carry the spirit of Beijing forward bringing in new voices and lifting up the next generation of leaders.”

Mogens Lykketoft, president of the U.N. General Assembly, said he hoped a woman would become the next head of the world body when Ban Ki-moon steps down later this year.

“It would be symbolically and of real value very important that at the end of 2016 we will have the first ever elected female U.N. secretary general, and the first ever female president of the most powerful of nations – the United States.

“What a way to demonstrate that our shared vision can become a reality,” he said.

Women candidates in the running include former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria.