Interview
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
International Women of Courage Awardees Henriette Ekwe Ebongo, Agnes Osztolykan, Eva Abu Halaweh, and Ghulam Sughra
Washington, DC
March 8, 2011


QUESTION: Madam Secretary, if I could – just a couple of quick news-of-the-day items --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- before we focus on the ladies here and the efforts today. There were some reports this afternoon perhaps the tides were turning a little bit in certain areas in Libya in Muammar Qadhafi’s favor. When we see everything that’s happening, are there plans sometime soon for a coordinated international effort there, and if so, what would it look like?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there is an international effort going on. The British and French Governments are going to the United Nations with a draft resolution that would authorize international action. We think it’s very important that there be a UN decision on whatever might be done. The Gulf countries put out a statement yesterday saying that they would support a no-fly zone, and yesterday too, the Arab League, through its secretary general, said that they would not object to that.

So we believe it’s important that this not be an American or a NATO or a European effort; it needs to be an international one. And there is still a lot of opposition, as you probably know, within the Security Council. But we’re working to try to come up with a good, solid international package.

QUESTION: Do you hear any opposition from U.S. allies in the region when it comes to U.S. involvement? I mean, as you stated, it sounds like it needs to not be a U.S.-led movement.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s exactly right, because this was about the Libyan people, just like Egypt was about the Egyptian people, Tunisia was about the Tunisian people. And we don’t want there to be any room for anyone, including Colonel Qadhafi, to say that “This is not about my people; this is about outsiders.” Because that would be doing a grave disservice to the sacrifice of the people in Libya. So we think it’s important that there be international support and that there be a broad acceptance by the international community, particularly the Arab world, that something needs to be done on behalf of the opposition in Libya.

QUESTION: When you were speaking this morning to the importance of women in the uprising that we’ve seen in --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: -- the Middle East and that these women continue to have a voice and that they must be a part of this heading forward --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: -- as you look at all the women that were honored today and you hear their stories, what gives you hope that those voices will be heard long-term?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think times are different today than they were even 10, certainly 30 or 40 years ago. Social media, the technology that now connects people, connects both men and women. And like the young woman from Cuba who wasn’t permitted to come that we honored today, she is influencing opinion because she has access to the internet. Many of the young women that were in Tahrir Square were there because they were organizing on the internet.

I don’t think that that clock can be turned back. Now, I do believe that there are still attitudes that are very traditional, so people are happy to see young women in the square, but when they go indoors to make the decisions, the young women are not invited in. So I was very proud of groups of Egyptian women who said, “We’re going to be in that room. We have lawyers and professors and doctors and businesswomen. We are part of what is important about Egypt’s future.”

So we’re going to stand up for those women, and it’s not for us to decide what they would be arguing, but to make sure that everyone knows we want them in that room helping to make the decisions.

QUESTION: Eva, I’m hearing you – as the Secretary is speaking, I can hear you agreeing with so much of what she’s saying. (Laughter.) As you – when you go back to Jordan and you bring back with you the recognition of this award, this International Women of Courage award, how does it help move things forward for you in your country?

MS. HALAWEH: First, I’m very glad to be awarded today because – on behalf of Jordanian women and Arab women, especially on this very special time, that we have the recognition in Tunisia and Egypt. I’m representing these courage women, and also Libya, the courage woman in Palestine who has been fighting against the occupation for more than (inaudible) years. In Jordan, I think this will help also other women to work more. This will encourage them, because someone one day will tell – talk to them, thank you, and appreciate their work.

QUESTION: When it comes to the next generation, I know this is something that’s especially important to you. You’ve fought so hard to represent the Roma people, but the next generation – there’s a lot of poverty and that can lead to so many other issues. How are you fighting for that?

MS. OSZTOLYKAN: Before I went to the Hungarian parliament to be a politician, I spent a lot of time in the countryside in Hungary and I saw a lot of young kids in very poor circumstances. So my task as a politician, to go back to my community and to explain that kids – that the education is the only way they can achieve their goals and targets.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) you tell such an incredible story. With your story, you were tortured for years.

MS. EBONGO: Mm-hmm, yeah.

QUESTION: And yet you never gave up, you never stopped having your own voice, giving a voice to other people.

MS. EBONGO: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Talk to us a little bit about how you ended up in this chair today and the struggle you went through.

MS. EBONGO: As you said, you don’t know why you became this kind of struggle. You just see that things are not working in your society and you have something to do about it. I think that this is the way everywhere in every part of history, people start something and they just continue whatever the price to pay. And we have – in French-speaking Africa, we have (inaudible) colonialism. I mean that we were independent but the French Government was still deciding. Even now, our currency is linked to France.

So this dictatorship in my country didn’t do anything for development, so we have to start fighting against the one-party dictatorship. And after the one-party system, we have to fight for a general democracy. And I told people that the U.S. Embassy in my country has been part of this democratic process from the beginning in 1990, and even in the fight against corruption and public funds embezzlement. So it’s important for us to fight, and it’s important for us to have support from some country who can lay pressures on some governments like ours.

QUESTION: And you said this award brings with it an incredible amount of support for you, and that you’re not as fearful for you own life when you go home now.

MS. EBONGO: Yeah, I think that this award – I’m so happy to have it because when you fight, you go through isolations, humiliations, and such things. And when the Ambassador called me to say you have been given this – you are – you’ll take this award in Washington, people called me from everywhere after the press release. They say, okay, I hope that now they will not harass you anymore. And I think that the press will protect me. And when we walk out from the hall, I saw the representative of my Embassy here in Washington. So this is a beginning. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And Ambassador, as you travel around and you learn these stories from all of these women and you bring them home, what do you bring back with you? How do you effect change? I mean, you have such a large job in front of you.

AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Well, there are many ways to effect change. These women are the agents of change around the world. And I think part of our responsibility is to really enable them to have the resources and the support to give them voice but enable them to raise their own voices, and other women like them to raise their voices. So whether we can be instrumental through our diplomatic channels and working with leaders in their countries, whether we can be supportive on the grassroots level, whether we can work with our own Congress and our own officials, who recognize that today, no country is going to get ahead, as the Secretary says over and over, if it leaves half of its people behind. So we really do have an obligation, those of us now in the business of really trying to create a better world for everybody, to invest in women like these women.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, have you seen a change, in all the different roles that you’ve played in government – as first lady, as senator, now as Secretary – you’ve said multiple times human rights are women’s rights and vice versa. Have you seen a change throughout the world in that perception?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I have, and I’m very pleased about that. I think that a lot of the issues that were either ignored or swept under the carpet in the past are now front and center. They cannot be ignored. They may still be resisted, and I see that in many countries. In Pakistan, there is still great resistance to educating girls and to giving girls and women equal rights. Unfortunately, it’s very deep in the culture. But there is no justifying it. It’s just that people don’t want to change to accommodate it.

So I have seen changes in laws, I’ve seen changes in attitudes, but I am not by any means comfortable, because I worry that there are still so many forces that try to turn the clock back on women. Why it is that people fight their political battles over the status of women, I don’t understand. But you will see governments, you will see powerful forces in religion and elsewhere all over the world that try to send women back as a way of lifting themselves up. It makes no sense to me, but it is what they do. So we have to be very vigilant. We cannot ever rest until we see a lot more progress than I’ve seen so far.

QUESTION: Perhaps they are feeling a threat of all these powerful women.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they ought to take advantage of all the intelligence and all of the hard work and the contributions that women can make.

MS. SUGHRA: (Inaudible) very inspired by her work and also by many American women whom we met in the last few days, like also the Ambassador Melanne Verveer.

AMBASSADOR VERVEER: But they have to learn (inaudible). If they want strong economies and prosperous countries, this is where the investment is.

Did you want to add something?

MS. SUGHRA: Yeah. I received the award. I am very happy, but in Pakistan many issues for woman, so I welcome woman empowerment, but there is no education, there is no (inaudible) by the woman, there is no equality rights. So I have been to work and I will go to work and will work, hard work. But we’ve earned the support from U.S. Government and the State Department. They support us morally and financially. So it is a real need. We want to make a happy Pakistan, so – I can’t do it alone, so I will trust the U.S. Government and Madam. So I want the support here.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you for your time.

PARTICIPANT: Thank you.

PARTICIPANT: Thank you.



PRN: 2011/359