Former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Georgetown University on February 5 for the annual Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security. She presented the award jointly to Nadia Murad, a UN goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of human trafficking; Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya human rights activist; and Lyse Doucet, the chief international correspondent for the BBC. In her remarks, Clinton spoke of empowerment and hope and warned against complacency.
Clinton described the work that has been done to ensure that “the issue of women’s peace and security could no longer be relegated to the margins of international relations.” Specifically, she spoke out against sexual violence in conflict and urged people to treat it not as a partisan issue but as “an issue that goes to the very heart of who we are as human beings, to our common humanity.” Referring to Murad’s work on bringing justice to Yazidi victims of an ongoing genocide by the Islamic State, Clinton said it was part of an important effort to combat the “scourge of global human trafficking.”
The 2016 presidential candidate also spoke about Nu’s efforts to build peace among Myanmar’s different ethnicities and recalled her time as secretary of state, when she introduced a UN Security Council resolution to mandate that peacekeepers protect women from sexual violence. Clinton also reflected on her role in publishing the first U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and called on the current administration to continue to implement its recommendations.
Clinton praised Doucet’s work in journalism, applauding her for “telling the stories that are often overlooked.” Clinton underlined the crucial role journalists play and declared that, in a time where “expertise, truth, and facts are under siege,” she continues to believe in objective truth, saying, “there is no such thing as alternative facts.”
Clinton concluded by calling on members of the audience to “use your education, your mind, and your resolve to make the world a better place.” She urged them not to give-up or let their voices be silenced.
“It is hard to continue to speak up against what you think are obvious wrongs, but do not grow weary,” Clinton said, “draw hope and inspiration from each of the honorees.”
When asked what remains to be done, Clinton said that “we have to nurture and protect the progress that’s been made” while continuing to make this work a priority. She warned against becoming complacent, adding, “I see an upward trajectory, but I don’t want us to plateau or to feel like it’s not our business anymore.”
Despite her loss in the 2016 presidential election, Clinton continues to champion the issues that she made a priority during both her tenure as first lady and as secretary of state. Her message of hope and encouragement comes at a time when reproductive rights for women are being called into question. It also comes in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement that has seen thousands of women speak out against sexual abuse and sexual abusers.
The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security acknowledged the work that has been done by Clinton and the honorees as instrumental in furthering the cause of women’s rights. Doucet commented that the movement has enabled women to tell their stories and that the actions of those recognized are just one step in empowering others to do good as well.
“Women have always wanted to tell their story. We just have to open the door or a window,” Doucet remarked.
Although there remains much to be done to protect women—both around the world and in the U.S.—Clinton was optimistic.
“I’m very confident because we are not going back, and women’s voices are not shutting up,” she declared to thunderous applause.