Topics of Interest

New Year’s Resolution
Make Clinton’s dream for women and girls a reality

Hillary Clinton made the advancement of women a centerpiece of her agenda at State, insisting that women’s issues be integrated into all levels of policy and planning. She was an advocate for women and girls long before she declared in Beijing in 1995 as first lady that ‘‘Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights — once and for all.’’

This may not be the glitziest foreign policy. Reducing maternal mortality in childbirth, getting girls to school, promoting milk cooperatives and microcredit are not big budget items. But they reap vast dividends as they take root in cultures that traditionally dismissed, oppressed or abused women. Clinton’s goal of installing a million ‘‘clean’’ cookstoves alone could save the lives of countless women and children.

Overcoming tribal and cultural sexism is not for the faint-of-heart — particularly when religion gets stirred into the mix. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents play on cultural prejudices to attack girls going to school and female health workers immunizing children. Honor killings, sexual mutilation and other violence, denial of civil rights and political marginalization are slow to give way in the developing world. Even in India, the world’s most populous democracy, nearly one-third of women in a 2010 poll said they had experienced sexual harassment — though only 1 percent reported attacks because the police typically dismiss the complaint or side with the attackers.

Change is coming. The death on December 29, 2012 of a 23-year-old university student from injuries received in a gang rape in Delhi last month has provoked angry protests and soul searching. The determination of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan to recover and return to school after she was nearly killed by attackers in October will likely inspire more women and girls to stand up for their rights.

When they do, they will be living out the dream Hillary Clinton has nurtured for decades. As the secretary of state seeks to win her own health battle so she can embark on the next chapter of her remarkable life in this new year, may her dream move ever closer to reality.

Syracuse Post Standard 12/31/2012