That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family, and every nation on our planet has a stake in the discussion [The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women] that takes place here.
Over the past 25 years, I have worked persistently on issues relating to women, children and families. Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women in my own country and around the world.
I have met new mothers in Jojakarta, Indonesia, who come together regularly in their village to discuss nutrition, family planning, and baby care.
I have met working parents in Denmark who talk about the comfort they feel in knowing that their children can be cared for in creative, safe, and nurturing after-school centers.
I have met women in South Africa who helped lead the struggle to end apartheid and are now helping build a new democracy.
I have met with the leading women of the Western Hemisphere who are working every day to promote literacy and better health care for the children of their countries.
I have met women in India and Bangladesh who are taking out small loans to buy milk cows, rickshaws, thread and other materials to create a livelihood for themselves and their families.
I have met doctors and nurses in Belarus and Ukraine who are trying to keep children alive in the aftermath of Chernobyl.
The great challenge of this Conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard.
Women comprise more than half the world’s population. Women are 70% percent of the world’s poor, and two-thirds of those who are not taught to read and write.
Women are the primary caretakers for most of the world’s children and elderly. Yet much of the work we do is not valued – not by economists, not by historians, not by popular culture, not by government leaders.
At this very moment, as we sit here, women around the world are giving birth, raising children, cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning houses, planting crops, working on assembly lines, running companies, and running countries.
Women also are dying from diseases that should have been prevented or treated; they are watching their children succumb to malnutrition caused by poverty and economic deprivation; they are being denied the right to go to school by their own fathers and brothers; they are being forced into prostitution, and they are being barred from the bank lending office and banned from the ballot box.
Those of us who have the opportunity to be here have the responsibility to speak for those who could not.