WELLESLEY, Mass. — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged female activists from across the globe to continue breaking barriers and forge paths to political leadership during the opening ceremonies of a female leadership conference at Wellesley College.
Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albr ight returned to their alma mater to address conference delegates, 50 women from 21 countries, for the first Women in Public Service Institute.
Clinton told the female activists and public servants that she is looking to them for their leadership and hoping they will create change and “lasting progress” in their respective countries.
“We know we’ve got to keep pushing at that glass ceiling,” she said of female leadership in emerging democracies and the United States.
Rangita de Silva-de Alwis, the institute’s director, said over 500 women applied to participate in the two-week long global leadership conference. She said delegates were primarily chosen from countries undergoing transition and revolution, with over 40 coming from Northern Africa and the Middle East, so they could share their stories and learn from each other.
Delegates were selected through a nomination and application process for their work in public service and showing promise for future leadership and influence. Many were involved in the Arab Spring anti-government uprisings.
They include 27-year-old Naheed Farid, who is the youngest member of Afghanistan’s parliament and a key leader in Myanmar’s democracy movement.
Farid, who expressed concern over the future of Afghanistan’s democracy once international troops begin to pull out in 2014, said she hopes the conference will teach her how to mobilize the potential of young people in her country, as well as improve conditions for women and children.
“I really want to learn from the ladies all around the world, because we have one thing in common, which is violence against women,” she said.
Like Farid, Jackcilia Salathiel Ebere Ginana, a delegate from South Sudan, said she hopes the conference will teach her how to solve some of the challenges facing women in her country.
“My expectation for this conference is that when I go back, I will not be the same again,” she said. “I will gain more courage from experiences of the women from around the world.”
She currently serves as the Minister for Labor, Public Service and Human Resource Development in Western Equatoria State/Yambio.
Albright said the conference will foster unique and important global connections for the women.
“I think what makes this a very important meeting is that the women are going to share their stories and learn from each other and then be part of a support group system,” Albright told reporters before the event.
She said she believes women need to be “taken seriously” and have equal representation in political leadership in order to shape the future.
The conference, which aims to train women with leadership skills in an effort to increase female global leadership from 17.5 percent to 50 percent by 2050, is the result of a partnership between the U.S. State Department and the nation’s leading women’s colleges.
Delegates will attend training and networking sessions with Albright, former congresswoman Jane Harman and many other influential female leaders. They will also have the opportunity to network with each other.