documentBy Mackenzie C. Babb
Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized the critical importance of supporting the next generation of women leaders at the opening day of the inaugural Women in Public Service Institute at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
"Women's contributions are vital to building successful democracies and thriving societies," Clinton told the institute's delegates June 11. The women selected to take part in the two-week training and networking program represent 21 nations in the process of political and social transformation, including several countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
"I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say, and to seeing what you will accomplish and to admiring the progress that you will achieve," Clinton said. "The United States will stand with you as your partner and as your supporter as you do what is necessary to secure democracy and the universal human rights that every human being is entitled to."
Clinton, a Wellesley College alumna, expressed great appreciation to delegates who have worked toward political revolution and democracy in their own countries. She said the institute is intended to help delegates move from protest to politics by training them to organize, run for office and hold new governments accountable.
"Over the coming days, you will work with leading experts and academics and have a chance to build these relationships that can give you additional insights," Clinton said. "You'll hear from a wide range of women leaders, from inside and outside government, women who have organized social movements and civil society organizations, who have started businesses, run for office and defied the odds throughout their lives."
The secretary said each delegate will be paired with a mentor who will provide her guidance and assistance during the institute and after returning home.
Clinton said delegates will also participate in seminars on practical skills, such as moving legislation through parliament, holding press conferences, organizing grass-roots networks and lobbying public officials. She said discussions will also cover major challenges, such as increasing women's participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict decision-making.
"So by the time you leave Wellesley, I hope that you will not only have some new tools and connections, but even more importantly, new confidence and determination," Clinton said.
"This, as you know so well, is only the beginning," she added. "The real work lies ahead for each of you back home."
Women scheduled to address the delegates include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; Jane Harman, former congresswoman and president of the Woodrow Wilson Center; Cambodian opposition leader Mu Sochua, a former Cambodian minister for women's affairs; Judge Nancy Gertner; and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer.
The State Department helped to sponsor the initiative, which is designed as the first in a series of seminars for women leaders around the world hosted at women's colleges in the United States.