(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday told a group of 50 women delegates from around the world gathered for the State Department’s first Women in Public Service Institute that “extremists of all stripes” are trying to “constrain and control women” and “the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.”
The inaugural event, which launched on Monday and continues through June 22, is billed as “the first-of-its-kind, two-week program that will train the next generation of women leaders, and part of a global project to get world leadership from 17.5 percent female to ’50 percent by 2050.’”
The delegates “were selected from 21 nations in the process of political and social transformation, including countries that are drafting new Constitutions and undergoing major reform.”
“Many of the women are from the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region and were involved in the Arab Spring,” a press release on Wellesley’s Web Site said.
“Every one of you has your own story of challenges overcome and barriers broken, because all over the world, women still face obstacles to political and economic participation. Cultural traditions, legal barriers, social pressures stop women from pursuing an education or starting a business or certainly running for office,” Clinton said, speaking at Wellesley College, Clinton’s alma mater.
“And there aren’t enough mentors and role models. There are too many extremists of all stripes trying to constrain and control women – how we dress, how we act, even the decisions we make about our own health and bodies,” she added.
“Now the numbers on participation tell the story. Women hold less than 20 percent of all seats in parliaments and legislatures around the world. I’m sorry to say, here in the United States, our percentage is even a little lower at 17 percent. And it’s not just politics,” Clinton said.
“Only three percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and I always think to myself, ‘What a waste,’ because the world cannot miss out on the talents and contributions of half the population. But these numbers tell only part of the story,” she added. “We need better data and more rigorous research that documents the impact women have in public service and the obstacles that still prevent us from contributing.
“To begin this work, the Women in Public Service project has given an initial grant to the University of Albany for field research in Uganda and an initiative to form a new caucus for women legislators there, and we look forward to expanding on this kind of effort in the future,” Clinton said.
According to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, also a graduate of Wellesley who spoke before Clinton, said, “The 50 delegates are the best and brightest rising political talents from countries in which women’s voice are desperately needed in seats of power. The Women in Public Service Institute will give these women the tools they need to amplify their voices, build networks, and bring about positive change – not only for women, but for the world.”
The women represent the countries of Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen. Most of the women are under 40 years old.
“Around the world, we are hoping to help correct the gender imbalances in public service – not just by working at the top, shattering those glass ceilings, but also at the grassroots level by training and supporting women like those who are here, who have the talent, who have the will but sometimes not the opportunity to become effective leaders in their nations,” Clinton said.
“If you do not participate, others will hijack your revolution, and they will very often begin from the first day to undermine the hopes and aspirations that you were protesting for,” she added.
Participants will be paired with female mentors who will stay in “close contact” with them after they return to their native homes. Seminars will include: how to move legislation through a parliament, hold a press conference, and organize grassroots networks and lobby public officials.
The event is also sponsored by Dell, according to Clinton, and participants will be given a laptop “loaded with software and tools for grassroots organizing and networking.” Dell is also “providing training on how to use social media and other connection technologies for effective advocacy and communication.”