Hillary Clinton Talks Women’s Rights in Manhattan as Controversy Swirls

Hillary Clinton.(Photo: Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton.(Photo: Bryan Thomas/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton told an audience in Manhattan this morning that there’s “never been a better time in history to be born female”–even as controversy swirls over her foundation accepting tens of millions of dollars in donations from Middle Eastern countries with poor human rights records.

Ms. Clinton, the former secretary state and presumptive presidential contender, spoke at a Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton event detailing “No Ceilings,” the foundation’s project measuring the advancement of women and girls worldwide. The foundation has been dogged over reports that it accepted tens of millions of dollars in donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Brunei and Algeria—all countries that the State Department has criticized for their records on sex discrimination and various human-rights issues.

“There has never been a better time in history to be born female,” declared Ms. Clinton, standing with her daughter Chelsea and Melinda Gates in the Best Buy Theater at Times Square. “The data also shows how far we still have to go.”

The report, available at noceilings.org, comes 20 years after Ms. Clinton gave a well-regarded human rights speech in Beijing. Ms. Clinton, who is married to former President Bill Clinton, alluded to that moment, but not to new questions over how the foundation’s initiatives have been financed.

“Today, two decades later, it’s clear we’re not there yet. We still have a lot of work to do and were excited for you to dig into this data yourself,” Ms. Clinton said. “Understand how much more there is to do.”

The star-studded affair was hosted by America Ferrera, a television actress, who praised social media for telling the stories of once disenfranchised women. Chelsea Clinton touted global gains like diminishing number of women who die from pregnancy–a 42 percent drop is 1995–while lamenting barriers placed in front of women like forced child marriages. (Mr. Clinton did not speak.)

Highlighting her experience in foreign affairs, Ms. Clinton spoke on stage with Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the new president of Croatia, and Melanne Verveer, the executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women. Ms. Clinton argued more women should play a role in the peace-negotiating process.

Ms. Clinton, in addition to speaking with advocates about the importance of motivating more women to seek careers in science and technology, led a discussion on the impact of climate change on women with Mary Robinson, an environmentalist and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation, and Marcela Tovar-Restrepo, chair of the board of directors of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization.

“Women are … on the front lines of climate change .ts important to remember that women are not just victims–they are agents of change,” Ms. Clinton said. Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Winner, addressed the audience via Skype.

Ms. Clinton is likely to face little opposition in the Democratic primary and remains a front-runner in any one-on-one match-up with a Republican. But Ms. Clinton, expected to kick off her campaign as early as next month, is far from a coronation: Democrats and Republicans alike are questioning why the former secretary of state, as it was reported last week in the New York Times and other outlets, used a private email address while she served in the Obama administration, cutting off public access to her communications and making her vulnerable to hackers and cyberterrorists.

Allies to Ms. Clinton have downplayed the controversy. She is banking on the electorate ignoring her email issues—she has promised to release them to the public–and her foundation’s dubious donation history by 2016. Rather, Ms. Clinton is hoping voters are electrified by the possibility of the nation’s first female president.

Hillary Clinton Talks Women’s Rights in Manhattan as Controversy Swirls