Georgetown hosted the annual Hillary Clinton Awards on Sept. 27 in Gaston Hall. As the Honorary Founding Chair of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security , former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented awards to three women for their efforts in advancing women’s roles in global peace and security.
The event honored Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner of human rights and former Chilean president, Virginia Martes Velásquez, the founder of Movimiento de Mujeres se la Colonia López Arellano (MOMUCLAA), and Rosa Anaya, program coordinator of Segundas Oportunidades.
Bachelet was commended for her work for economic empowerment and ending domestic violence internationally. As Chilean president, she worked to advance the rights of women and the LGBTQ community. She was joined by Virginia Martes Velasquez, the founder of Movimiento de Mujeres se la Colonia López Arellano (MOMUCLAA), which provide legal and psychological assistance for survivors of violence in Choloma, Honduras, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. At 70 years old, Velásquez continues to lead her organization.
Anaya was honored for her advocacy for peace and security in El Salvador, where she has protected the rights of the vulnerable and advocated for reform in the justice system. She works extensively with prisoners to rehabilitate former inmates back into society and lower recidivism rates.
Clinton’s remarks were focused on championing the work of these three women in the advancement of international human rights. However, she also used her platform to criticize the current administration’s treatment of diplomats.
“He has turned turned American diplomacy into a cheap, extortion ratchet,” Clinton said of President Donald
Trump. “He has denigrated, and let’s be honest, stabbed in the back the career foreign service officers who serve bravely and selflessly no matter the politics of the administration they are working under. And now they are caught in the crosswires.”
She referenced her background in working with the State Department to acknowledge their work. “I know firsthand they deserve the support and gratitude of all Americans.”
During her speech, Clinton supported the impeachment inquiry announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday.
“Sadly we’ve known who Donald Trump is for some time now. We knew he was a corrupt businessman who cheated people,” Clinton said. “We knew that his campaign invited foreign adversaries to tamper with our elections. And now we know, that in the course of his duties as president, he has endangered us all by putting his personal and political interests ahead of the interests of the American people.”
Clinton’s remarks contributed to the recurring theme of climate change that has dominated university dialogue in past weeks, as she discussed teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
Clinton was personally grateful for Thunberg’s bravery and her inspiration of young people globally. “She engendered a backlash from the climate change deniers, from the anti-anything coalition that takes on those who stand up and speak out and actually live in an evidence based world,” she said. “Never underestimate the power of women and girls not only to improve their own lives, but to lift up entire families, communities, and entire nations”
The awards ended with a panel of Clinton, Bachelet, Velásquez, and Anaya addressing pre-written questions from students. Anaya was asked what she wanted the U.S. to know about her country of El Salvador. She explained that no person wants to have to leave their country, and those seeking asylum in America do not choose the horrible conditions of violence into which they are forced.
“Migration is a right. And asylum is a protected right under international law,” Anaya said.
Velásquez was asked how her organization, MOMUCLAA, intervened in combating violence community.
“We work in many communities to organize women and teach women about their rights,” she said. “Even though we are in the 21st century right now women continue to face discrimination, and we need to continue to fight for our rights and fight against the patriarchy.”
There was also discussion of U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, which is known for oppressing human rights—specifically those of women. Clinton criticized the manner in which negotiations had been conducted by the current administration. “I personally would like to see Afghan women at any of these tables for future negotiations,” she said.
The event ended on a hopeful note, as Bachelet empowered her audience to also work in defending human rights.“We really need women and men, because it is not a women’s issue, it is everyone’s issue,” Bachelet said.
“The first thing I would say to young people is organize. Vote. Elect good leaders. We need young people to be there…to bring new, creative ideas.”
Photos courtesy of Sarema Shorr.