The roster read like a who's who in politics: Brazil's President, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Secretary of State, the President of Kyrgyzstan, the President of Finland, and the former presidents of Chile and New Zealand, among other heads of governments.
What set this high-level meeting apart from so many others at the United Nations is that the power brokers were all women. Brought together by the newly formed UNWomen, these world leaders spent two hours discussing the importance of smashing the glass ceiling, once and for all.
"The work that brings us together today is, I think, one of the great pieces of unfinished business in the 21st Century," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in her remarks to a standing-room only crowd numbering 500. That work is the work of women's political participation and trying to ensure gender equality. All too often women's voices in political decision making are barely heard above a whisper because of discriminatory laws and attitudes.
Secretary Clinton thanked Brazil's President Rousseff and Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for their earlier remarks and their example, "because clearly as someone who tried to be a president it is very encouraging to see those who actually end up a president."
Consider this: Fewer than 30 countries have reached the UN's target of 30 percent of women in national parliaments.
Secretary Clinton emphasized that that the political tremors that began in the Middle East and North Africa where "women have marched and demonstrated and blogged," are still reverberating. "Women have to be part of the future.""As the Arab Awakening enters a new chapter, we all have a stake in ensuring that the potential of all citizens -- men and women, boys and girls have a chance to be realized."
Tunisia's Minister of Women's Affairs spoke out about the need for help from the outside -- political and financial if women are to find their voice. Currently, the are no female heads of state or foreign ministers in the Middle East and North Africa.
That is why all the women, on behalf of countries from all corners of the globe signed a Joint Declaration, underscoring "that women's political participation is fundamental to democracy" and urging all states to take steps to "promote women's equal right to participate in all areas and at all levels of political life."
The head of UN Women, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, and the head of the UN Development Program, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, also signed the statement.