Today, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges," a year-long series of events bringing 100 women leaders from 92 countries to the United States. This effort features International Visitor Leadership Program exchanges that highlight key foreign policy issues directly affecting women and girls worldwide. Secretary Clinton said:
"...This is especially important for me because I believe strongly that every person -- man and woman, boy and girl -- has a God-given right to participate and to go as far as his or her hard work and talents will take them.
"So for me, investing in women and girls is smart. It pays off. It's not only the right thing to do -- and I see some heads nodding -- because you've seen the differences in the lives around you, in your own life as to what it means for someone to believe in a girl or a woman and to give her the tools to make the most out of her own life. But it's also true that this is important if you want to alleviate hunger -- you teach women, who are most of the farmers in the world how to get more harvest out of their hard work. If you want to alleviate poverty, you give women access to credit and opportunities to actually start to generate income for themselves and their families. And you have been working in these and so many areas. You are established and emerging leaders from 92 countries. You are leaders from the academic world, from business, from civil society, from the media. You are pioneers and you are fearless supporters of those who need a champion."
Secretary Clinton continued, "...Now, this program represents just one of the ways that we at the State Department and in the Obama Administration are elevating the role of women and girls in our foreign policy. We are working with the private sector to provide grants to NGOs in many countries in order to help women and girls. We are encouraging your governments and your own business sector to invest more in women and bring women into the financial system. We think that's a good return on investment for those banks and other financial entities.
"We have something called the mWomen program, and that is to try to get more mobile technology -- cell phones -- into the hands of more poor women, because there's such a gap. Even though there are now 2 billion cell phones in the world, there are at least 2 billion more poor people who could use those cell phones for all kinds of purposes.
"We want to make sure that we hear from you about your experience and you give us your best ideas. We are going to be bringing even more women leaders to the United States. Every year, 5,200 entrepreneurs, politicians, civil servants, human rights activists, teachers, and others visit our country. When I travel around the world -- and I've traveled hundreds of thousands of miles in the last two years. I think the last time I looked, it was over 450,000 miles, and I'm, like, perpetually jetlagged, to be honest with you.
"But when I travel to other countries, I always meet somebody who's been on a visitor program to the United States. And that makes me feel good because I learn how it helps to shape their lives. And as I travel, I always take time out to meet with women, because I have a very strong belief that diplomacy, being the Secretary of State, is not just about governments meeting governments and government officials meeting government officials. Ultimately, I think it is people-to-people relationships that make a difference, that can really give you the strength to keep going through very difficult times."
You can read the Secretary's full remarks here.