Highlights of the Women in the World Summit

The Daily Beast's Women in the World summit closed Sunday--an extraordinary three-day session in which some of the most powerful women on the planet met to discuss global challenges and propose solutions, in a stirring call to arms. From Queen Rania and Valerie Jarrett to Hillary Clinton, Nora Ephron and Katie Couric, the assembled blew the roof off with their ideas and their passion for change.

03.12.10 5:45 PM ET

The Daily Beast's Women in the World summit closed Sunday--an extraordinary three-day session in which some of the most powerful women on the planet met to discuss global challenges and propose solutions, in a stirring call to arms. From Queen Rania and Valerie Jarrett to Hillary Clinton, Nora Ephron and Katie Couric, the assembled blew the roof off with their ideas and their passion for change. Watch moments from the summit, including peace activist Leymah Gbowee urging Michelle Obama to meet with African first ladies, Meryl Streep speaking with real-life heroine, Irish civil rights activist Inez McCormack, and Diane Sawyer's emotional conversation with Marietou Diarra and Molly Melching.

• Activists gather at the summit.
• Take action! Find out how to help with our solutions Cheat Sheet.
Check out photo highlights from the weekend.
• Click here for The Daily Beast’s full coverage of Women in the World
Watch powerhouse French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde on the "Happiness Index"—and why the biggest mistake a woman can make is acting like the guys.
Read the weekend's agenda.
• Stay engaged to Women in the World on Twitter and Facebook
• Read our blog of the conference below.

Marc Bryan-Brown for The Daily Beast / Women in the World

Valerie Jarrett: Health Vote Coming in a Week

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama, continued the administration's drum beat on health-care reform Sunday morning, speaking at The Daily Beast's Women in the World summit.

"The time has come," Jarrett told session moderator Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, adding that she was "very confident" that legislation would see a vote within around a week.

In the audience was New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, whom Jarrett praised for supporting the legislation.

"Now I think the American people deserve an up or down vote," Jarrett said.

She poured water on the idea that Obama wasn't up to the task of strong-arming Congress, when quizzed by Stahl on the mounting criticisms of the president. "If a week from now, we have health-insurance reform passed, my guess is that you will be asking the question a different way."

Jarrett, who admitted to a daily cable television habit ("Everyone knows I watch Morning Joe every morning"), had some harsh words for one commentator in particular. "I don't watch Glenn Beck. I watched it once, but I couldn't finish the show. I was not entertained," she said, adding, "I do watch the normal cable during the course of the day." She said of Obama, "He chastises me regularly, saying, 'Turn it off. You're making me crazy, just stop it.'"

Click here to read Samuel P. Jacobs' full report on Jarrett's appearance at Women in the World.


Click Below to View our Gallery of the Summit


In Final Panel, Calls for Media to Tell More Stories About Women's Lives

"How do you make people pay attention?," Daily Beast editor Tina Brown asked at the final panel of the Women in the World conference. After three days jam-packed with uplifting and heart-breaking stories of women's challenges around the world, the question really was: How do we get the stories out?

Director and screenwriter Nora Ephron focused on the power of YouTube and social media, joking that "We probably can't look to Hollywood to save us." Bravo president Lauren Zalaznik offered a practical solution: "Do as much good in the world as you can and make some money doing it."

Brown wrapped up the panel with a call to arms, that everyone in attendance do what they can to get these stories out there, to "get a new kind if energy going," to raucous applause.

Rebecca Dana


Does Foreign Aid Help or Hurt Africa?

Dambisa Moyo (Marc Bryan-Brown for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

That was the question before two leading idea merchants: economist Dambisa Moyo, author of the recent book Dead Aid, and Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the nonprofit Acumen Fund and author of The Blue Sweater.

Provocatively, Moyo has argued that aid is bad for Africa, degrading the relationship between citizens and their governments and limiting development.

"There is no country on earth... that has achieved long-term economic growth by relying on aid to the extent that African countries rely upon aid today," Moyo said.

Novogratz said that aid needs to be fundamentally reshaped but called for attention to its possibilities. "There is an opportunity today that we've never had in history to identify entrepreneurs and individuals that are finding ways to deliver services that are affordable, quality, and have real distribution services that can become models for the world," Novogratz said.

The pair, hosted in conversation by Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, squared off on Rwanda's relationship to aid where that country's president, Paul Kagame, has said aid is bad for his country, but his government has continued to rely on it to fuel Rwanda's economy.

Moyo, who is from Zambia, has taken a critical stance on African governments. "Not all African leaders are corrupt," Moyo said. "Sometimes they are just lazy."

Samuel P. Jacobs


Diane von Furstenberg Honors Four Women at United Nations

Amanda Schwab, Starpix / AP Photo

Through pouring rain on Saturday night, the Women in the World summit left the Hudson Theatre in New York to shuttle across town to the United Nations, where the Diane von Furstenberg Awards took place. At the U.N., von Furstenberg’s African-inspired prints covered tables and chairs, and palm fronds circled the room.

“One thing I will be known for is that I transformed the U.N. into a nightclub,” von Furstenberg joked as she took the stage. She went on to describe pop-culture icon Lady Gaga to the room of women from around the world: “Do you know Lady Gaga?” she asked. “She doesn’t have to wear a veil, but she wears one.”

The night quickly took a more serious turn, as von Furstenberg announced that the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation had awarded grants of $50,000 to four women—from Afghanistan, Haiti, South Korea, and Colombia.

And though the DVF Award recipients are women who are inciting grassroots change, the presenters were four female stars in their own right: Meryl Streep, Christiane Amanpour, Robin Roberts, and Vital Voices’ Melanne Verveer.

Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts bestowed the “People’s Voice” Award (which was selected by public vote) to Katherine Chon of South Korea, who is the president and co-founder of Polaris Project, which combats human trafficking and slavery within the United States. Chon said she was galvanized while at student Brown University—where she discovered that women were forced into prostitution at a massage parlor less than two miles from her dorm.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour gave an award (which were small statues sculpted by the artist Anh Duong) to Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, who is helping educate women in Afghanistan. “When I first received this prize, my friends asked me, Sadiqa, what are you going to do with this prize?” she explained. “I said, ‘I am going to shop in New York!’” All jokes aside, however, Basiri Saleem explained that she would use the grant to open the first college for women in Afghanistan.

Melanne Verveer, co-founder and chair emeritus of Vital Voices, introduced recipient Danielle Saint-Lot, who is working to bring economic empowerment to women in Haiti. “After January 12, I really know what it means to be blessed,” Saint-Lot said of her country’s devastating earthquake. “Thirty five seconds can change a whole country. I really think that this is our moment. Behind all our tears, we need to move forward.”

Isabel Wilkinson


Genital-Cutting Survivors—One Who Lost Two Daughters to the Procedure—Speak Out

Edna Adan Ismail (Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

When Edna Adan Ismail was an 8-year old in Somaliland, she sensed something special was going on in her home. There was a new sheep, people buzzing around, preparations.

The occasion—unbeknown to the young girl—was her own circumcision, in which her vaginal opening was reduced through cutting and stitching to the diameter of a matchstick. "When it's about to be done to you, nobody seeks your consent," she told the Women in the World summit Saturday. "You're caught, you're cut, you're tied, and that's it."

In a panel moderated by ABC's Diane Sawyer, Ismail joined State Department Undersecretary Maria Otero and Tostan founder and anti-genital cutting activist Molly Melching, who is based in Senegal. The stories were heartbreaking: An 11-year girl with Down syndrome cut to the bone in a botched circumcision, then bled to death; mothers who say they subject their daughters to the procedure because they love them—it is so deeply ingrained socially.

But there is hope. Though 150 million women around the world are affected by female genital mutilation, "there's a movement started, it's exciting," of greater access to education leading rural villages and religious leaders to turn against the practice, publicly denouncing and outlawing it, Melching said. The secret is to appeal to both women and men with a message of human rights, which is easier for traditional socieites to accept than a message of female empowerment or equality.

How does change happen? Marietou Diarra, a Senegalese woman, closed the panel with a powerful story of what her society calls "the tradition." She spoke in her native language of Wolof, through sobs, and was translated by Melching. Diarra's oldest child, a daughter, was cut at the age of three and died after the procedure. Her second daughter, at age 7, was taken for a cutting ceremony without her mother's consent, and also died. The girl was buried before Diarra was even informed. Diarra then had a third daughter, whom she willingly allowed to be cut, to preserve the girl's marriage prospects.

After this string of tragedies, Diarra's family and in-laws banded together to reject the procedure. Her entire village followed suit. And eventually, working with Tostan, Diarra traveled to dozens of neighboring villages, helping to convince over 40 of them—through education and community deliberation—to abandon genital cutting. "It is clear... that the United States can't solve things" alone, Otero said, urging that communities be allowed to approach the concept of cultural change in their own way. "We can support. We can promote."

—Dana Goldstein


Click Below to View our Gallery of the Reading of SEVEN


Queen Rania: Educating Girls a Life-or-Death Issue

"I really do think this is a do or die year and I don't mean that metaphorically—education really can mean life or death," Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan told CBS's Katie Couric this afternoon at the Women in the World summit. Queen Rania, a long-time advocate for girls' education, made an impassioned plea for a sense of urgency about educating the developing world's 600 million girls instead of condemning them to lives of poverty and disease.

"Educating a girl is probably the highest returning investment that a country can make," she added.

After Queen Rania's discussion, four activists for women and girls joined Couric in a panel. Kakenya Ntaiya, who founded a school for girls in Kenya, was the first woman in her tribe to graduate from college. She paid a heavy price for her education: she had to bargain with her father by allowing herself to undergo genital mutilation in exchange for him letting her finish school.

"I was engaged when I was five years old and I was supposed to marry when I was twelve after undergoing cutting," she said. Ntaiya said she faced many pressures while going through school, since marriage is so highly valued in her community. By eighth grade, only two of her friends were still in school, the rest had been married. At the boarding school she founded for girls, she tries to reverse these pressures. Girls who only looked at the floor when they first arrived, following custom for women, are now looking up.

"It's been really amazing to see," she said.

Couric said the panel had given her several great story ideas "but I don't want to say it because Diane Sawyer is right there."

—Liz Goodwin


Chinese Literary Star: When My First Child Was a Daughter, I Cried

Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast / Women in the World

China is home to more women than any other country on Earth. Wei Sun Christianson, the managing director and CEO of Morgan Stanley China, and Anchee Min, the world-renowned novelist, have similar origins in mid-century China, but their lives took drastically divergent paths before merging again on the stage of the Hudson Theater. Wei’s mother was born near Beijing and studied medicine in the 1930s under Norman Bethune, the famous Canadian communist physician. Anchee, meanwhile, was born the same year as Wei in Shanghai. As a child, she spent four months each year in the countryside with her grandmother. Once, as Anchee massaged her grandmother’s bound feet at night, her grandmother told her “women are grass, born to be stepped on.”

Indeed, when Anchee had her own daughter, she admits she cried. “I wanted a boy,” Min says. “Who wants to be a girl in China?” This is a question that millions of women in China ask themselves: Because of the one-child policy, selective abortions have led to a situation where 120 boys are born for every 100 women in China. “In 15 years time, there will be 40 million men without Chinese wives,” Wei said.

Both Wei and Anchee would eventually make it to the United States, but under drastically different conditions. Wei came to study at Dartmouth College and Columbia University before practicing law in New York City. Anchee, meanwhile, came speaking no English with her chosen name “Angel” misspelled as “Angle” on her immigration papers. In the 1970s, Anchee was drafted as a filmmaker to work at the service of Madame Mao, whom she eventually novelized in her book Becoming Madame Mao. When Madame Mao fell out of favor and killed herself, Anchee was sent to a labor camp, where she spent eight years.

Anchee worked menial jobs in America as she learned the language. As she began to write, she found herself attracted to real woman whom Chinese history had trampled—not just Madame Mao but also Empress Orchid and Pearl S. Buck.

At the panel's end, Anchee—the weekend's funniest speaker so far—brought down the house with a short performance of traditional Chinese opera. She said she was out of practice, but what the hell—"You don't understand it."

—Ben Crair


Cherie Blair: Mobile Phones Promote Economic Development

At the first panel of the afternoon, Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Ann Livermore, executive vice president at HP Enterprise Business, immediately zeroed in on a solution that seems simple enough: the mobile phone.

Mobile phones, Blair explained, allow women to distribute information, make money, and promote literacy and health. A study conducted by Blair’s foundation revealed that a woman is 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. And, because 300 million women are without them worldwide, the dearth also represents a $13 billion business opportunity for international corporations.

In Pakistan, Blair’s foundation recently helped women use mobile phones to spread messages about breast-cancer care. Female health workers armed with cell phones could go to remote villages and talk to other women about treatments and care. “You can start putting simple diagnostic tools on the mobile phone, and start identifying problems in remote villages—and do something about it,” Blair said.

Her foundation has recently equipped women with small solar panels with built-in cell phone chargers, which provides women in remote villages to use natural energy to charge their phones. And local women, Blair explained, are beginning to sell the solar panels in their communities—giving them income and economic freedoms.

Isabel Wilkinson


French Finance Minister: Never Imitate the Boys

When New York Times columnist Tom Friedman asked French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde what advice she'd give the next woman in her job, she had a ready answer: "Never imitate the boys."

"What do you mean by that?" Friedman asked at Saturday's luncheon session of The Daily Beast's Women in the World summit.

"Don't assume," Lagarde replied, "that you're going to be better heard because you shout louder, use slang, and behave like the boys."

Knowing laughter ensued from the A-list crowd, which included Newsweek senior editor Lally Weymouth, talk-show host Charlie Rose, and the New Jersey born British businesswoman and harsh critic of President Obama, Lady Lynn de Rothschild. The tall, silver-haired Lagarde, the high-powered international chairman of the Baker & McKenzie law firm before she entered French politics, laid out her views on a variety of economic subjects, technical and nontechnical, including the future of the Euro (strong), the resolution of the Greek financial crisis (complicated, and requiring the Greek government to take politically unpopular moves, like raising the sales tax), and how happiness should be measured as a component for Gross Domestic Product.

Explaining her vision of the so-called "happiness index," which places a value on non-monetary assets such as household work, "cultural goods," and environmental well-being, Lagarde advised her listeners to imagine buying a house with a garden that you don't have time to tend, so you hire a gardener. "But if I happen to fall in love with the gardener, and we get married, and then don't pay him any more, it's gone." Of course, it's usually women's labor that is unaccounted for in that way.

Lagarde make several comparisons between the U.S. and French economies. She said she admired Americans' work ethic, but didn't shy away from pointing out that France's financial sector has weathered the recession better than America's because of tight regulations that require banks to diversify between retail and investment activities, and that prevent the granting of mortgages if a family can't make a 20 percent down payment.

—Lloyd Grove


Kiran Bedi: Reform Prisoners With Yoga, Put More Women in Uniform

In a lively discussion with Vanity Fair writer-at-large Marie Brenner, Kiran Bedi, India’s first and highest ranking female police officer, stressed the amazing potential of women in uniform. She also discussed the power of occasionally changing out of one’s uniform, interacting with victims and prisoners as a human being, instead of just as an authority figure.

Bedi should know: In 1993, the diminutive pioneer was charged with the near-impossible task of governing and reforming India’s infamous Tihar Prison, which Brenner described as a “notorious sewer” and a “hotbed of rage.” The prison—India's largest—was home to around 11,000 inmates, some of whom were women victims of human trafficking. The assignment was viewed as a type of "punishment," Brenner noted.

When Bedi first took her post as the prison’s governor, she addressed the massive crowd—not in her police uniform, but in a plain suit. “They didn’t expect a short woman not in uniform to walk in,” she said. “When I did that, I broke the ice straightaway.”

From her podium, Bedi asked the prisoners: Do you pray? Would you like to pray? After minutes of stunned silence and a bit of goading, the crowd closed their eyes and followed her lead. She began to sing. “When they opened their eyes, everybody was secure,” she said. “The message was, I’m here for you, for a new way of life.”

From there, Bedi described how she transformed the prison, instituting education programs and yoga sessions and making meditation and mindfulness a way of life—a progressive reform agenda almost unimaginable in an American jail, for example.

Capping off the interview, Brenner asked Bedi: Based on her experience, what are the three most crucial solutions the women leaders can take away?

Her response was succinct: More women in combat, in places like Congo and Liberia. More women in government. And more help from the United Nations—which she called one of the world’s only “non-partial nonpartisan” groups—in reforming criminal-justice systems.

Danielle Friedman


Obama's Anti-Slavery Czar: Hire and Invest in Survivors of Sex Trafficking

Sunitha Krishnan (Marc Bryan-Brown for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

Sex-slavery activist Sunitha Krishnan said the hardest part of rescuing human-trafficking victims is convincing them there are opportunities outside of the brothels where they have been imprisoned.

"When a child of 10 is brought in and is raped by 10 or 15 men every day, all of that is filmed for intimidation,” she said. “If she goes out, all these films and pictures will go to her family. The world outside is completely hostile... that the victim knows clearly. You're absolutely sure that no one will accept you at home."

Luis CdeBaca, U.S. ambassador-at-large for anti-trafficking, urged corporations to invest in sex-trafficking survivors as a way to offer them opportunities.

"They are so talented," he said. "Hire them, invest in them, and support them."

Over 1 million children in India are caught up in sex trade and human trafficking. Around the world, it is estimated to be a $32 billion global business. Krishnan spoke of her own ordeal that inspired her to become a rescuer of victims of the sex trade.

"It was at the age of 16 when my life changed. I was gang raped by eight men," she recounted. "The two years of isolation, the two years of ostracization, two years of stigmatization was the first knowledge in my mind that a woman could be victimized for being a victim in this country. I understand the pain of being stigmatized for no fault of yours."

Tina Brown, who moderated the event, said one of the saddest things about human trafficking is the fact that it's often go-getters looking for a new job, a new opportunity in another town, who get caught up in the trade.

"When they are taken to Delhi, they have stars in their eyes and only when they reach their destination do they realize there's no stars: There's only hell, slavery, and torture," Krishnan said.

Krishnan challenged the audience to remove the stigma around victims of sex slavery so they can have a chance at a new life.

"You're OK talking about human slavery, you're OK having a nice conversation in this beautiful hall, but it's not OK to bring them home, it's not OK to have them married to your son, it's not OK to have them working in your offices," Krishnan said.

Liz Goodwin


Albright: Before Obama, America’s Reputation Was in the Gutter

Madeleine Albright and Barbara Walters (Marc Bryan-Brown for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

In a wide-ranging interview with Barbara Walters Saturday morning, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed potential diplomatic solutions to “gendercide,” rape, and human trafficking; broke down the enormous challenges facing the Obama administration; lamented the disastrous legacy of the Bush era; and confessed to a Twitter habit.

“Do you tweet?,” Walters asked Albright, during one of the morning’s lighter moments.

“Occasionally,” Albright responded.

She went on to explain how social media has impacted the citizens of Iran and Pakistan, for example, shedding light on complex domestic conflicts and increasing the flow of information from and to the outside world. Albright said it is these places—“chaotic aspects of the international system”—that keep her up at night, worried that terrorists and other non-state actors will get their hands on nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Albright stressed the interconnectedness of domestic and foreign policy, something she joked she used to emphasize “to make myself more important.” She expressed sympathy for the Obama administration, having inherited such vast, intractable-seeming problems at home and abroad.

“I know people get tiring of hearing he was dealt a very bad hand,” she said, “but it was a terrible hand. America’s reputation was in the gutter.”

Obama’s monumental challenge, she said, is to “restore America’s leadership role in a way where we are partners, which is a big difference from telling everybody else what to do.” Broadly speaking, she described the administration’s priorities as figuring out “how to fight terrorism without creating more terrorists; how to deal with problems of nuclear nonproliferation; how to deal with issues with the gap between rich and poor; how to deal with issues of the global energy crisis and the environment.”

“He would have had to be a combination of Jesus Christ, the messiah, Buddha, all of them rolled into one in order to deal with the problems he was left,” she said, “and do it all in one year.”

Albright, a foreign policy adviser to Presidents Carter and Clinton as well as other Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, was unrestrained in her criticism of Republicans, Sarah Palin in particular. Walters asked what Albright would think of a Palin presidency.

“I’m not a political pundit,” she said, “but I believe that we need to have people who are President of the United States who understand the full range of issues that need to be dealt with, who have a full sense of human history, who know that Africa is not one country, and you can’t see Russia.”

Walters asked if Albright, who was not born in the United States, would have liked to be president.

“Actually, no,” she replied. “Because I am a foreign policy person.” In her view, “being Secretary of State is the best job in the world—and you don’t have to do health care.”

Walters ended the interview by commenting on Albright's brooch. While she was Secretary of State, Albright developed a signature touch, wearing pins from her vast costume jewelry collection to signal her mood going into diplomatic talks. She wore bees and bugs to visit dictators, doves when she was hoping for peace. To the Women in the World conference, she wore one of her favorite pins: one comprised of small shards of broken glass, like a shattered ceiling.

Rebecca Dana


Congolese Activist Saw Two Relatives Killed through Rape Epidemic

Annie Rashidi-Mulumba (Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

Annie Rashidi-Mulumba, a women's rights activist in war-torn Congo who described the rape crisis there as a "sexual massacre" this morning, told The Daily Beast after the discussion that she became an activist after two of her relatives were brutally raped and died.

"I had to pay for their lives," she said. One of the relatives was a 19-year-old man, another a woman in her twenties who became pregnant after the rape and died from complications with the pregnancy. "I went to that village and started taking testimonies [of other victims]. When we reached there I saw cases worse than what I had. I said, I can't just speak for my family, I have to speak for all of them."

Rashidi-Mulumba says she doesn't feel safe in Congo since authorities know she is an activist.

"It's my home whether I feel safe or not," she said. "They threaten us, police people. We are activists, and nobody likes activists. I don't speak for the government, I don't speak for the UN, I speak for the victims."

During the panel, Rashidi-Mulumba said the U.S. Embassy should pull out of Congo to pressure the government to stop atrocities against women. She clarified that she meant they should threaten to pull out, and said the ICC convicting and jailing one former leader for war crimes has really sent a message to the ruling class that you can't get away with murder. Gestures are important.

She runs a mobile legal clinic that helps women file police reports after they've been raped. The clinic travels to remote villages, where many of the atrocities go undocumented. "Most of the time they can't come to town [to report the crime] because they can't even walk," she said. "If you come and see, you can't go to sleep and not do anything."

Liz Goodwin


U.S. Embassy, Pull Out of Congo, Demands Anti-Rape Activist

Leymah Gbowee and Christiane Amanpour (Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

In a harrowing panel discussion at The Daily Beast's Women in the World summit, a Congolese human rights activist said women in her country have suffered a "sexual massacre" and that the U.S. Embassy should pull out of the nation in order to pressure the government to stop the atrocities.

"Most of the women are not raped once, they are raped, three, four, five times," Annie Rashidi-Mulumba said. "They want to exterminate the population...They want you to leave. They want to finish the life of a woman. There's no life after rape." She added that the rapes are conducted in public to heighten the shame, and that men force guns, knives, and even sand in the vaginas of their victims.

"We have to treat sexual violence as terrorism," said Dr. Denis Mukwege, a doctor who has treated over 21,000 women for sexual violence in war-torn Congo. He often has to convince women that their lives are still worth living after they've been raped.

"The most dangerous thing to be in the Congo today is a woman, not a soldier," said Christiane Amanpour, who moderated the panel.

The problem is also prevalent in Liberia. "I was angry at seeing women being raped and guns and knives being inserted in the vagina," said Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian activist who led a sex strike for peace. "We were walking up to international presidents and saying this is what we want, we're tired of being raped." Gbowee urged women not to get weary when fighting tyranny. She and a group of 2,500 women stormed the offices of then-president Charles Taylor, until he agreed to meet with them and hear their demands.

Amanpour pressed the panel to offer up solutions for how Americans can help the women in both nations. Gbowee suggested that the first ladies of Africa get together to talk about rape and sexual violence. "If Michelle Obama called a conference of African first ladies, everyone would come running," Gbowee said.

Liz Goodwin


Meryl Streep and Six World Class Actresses Star in SEVEN, Meet the Real-Life Heroines they Portrayed

Meryl Streep and Inez McCormack (Marc Bryan-Brown for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about giving voice to the voiceless during her speech at the Women in the World conference tonight, and as voices go, Meryl Streep's wasn't a bad way to start.

Streep portrayed one of seven extraordinary real-life women whose stories are dramatized in the play SEVEN, about the struggle for women's rights around the world. The play is a product of the Vital Voices Global Partnership and was written in the wake of the 1995 women's conference in Beijing, when Clinton famously declared "women's rights are human rights, human rights are women's rights." Streep, Marcia Gay Harden, Archie Panjabi, and the other actors performed a staged reading of the play directed by Julie Taymor, of Broadway's The Lion King.

The stories themselves—of women from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, Cambodia, Guatemala and Northern Ireland—hardly needed the heft of Oscar winners, but if certainly didn't hurt. Six of the seven real women were in the audience for the reading and joined the actors onstage after. Marina Pisklakova-Parker, a Russian woman who works with domestic violence victims, took her seat next to Gay Harden; Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani gang rape survivor who fights such "honor crimes," sat by Panjabi; Inez McCormack, a Northern Irish civil rights leader, wearing a magenta blazer, marched up on stage and gave Streep a big hug.

"What did it feel like to be played by Meryl Streep?," asked moderator Melanne Verveer, the State Department's global ambassador for women's issues.

"She's better at me than I am," McCormack said, while Streep, sitting behind her, fluttered her hands, as if sprinkling pixie dust.

The night's most moving moment came when Mu Sochua, a member of the Cambodian parliament portrayed in the play, told of how her fight for political freedoms was intensifying back home. When Clinton was first lady, she'd taken a photo with Sochua at her request, as a gesture to show the US was paying attention and support her efforts.

Now, Sochua said, she faces the prospect of jail time soon.

"Secretary Clinton," she said, "may I take another picture with you?"

—Rebecca Dana


Hillary Clinton: Gender Equality Laws Routinely Ignored Across Globe

Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast / Women in the World

The Beijing Women’s Conference, at which she gave her famous barnburner about human-rights abuses against women, "was 15 years and many hairstyles ago," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confided to the distinguished crowd Friday night at Manhattan's Hudson Theatre. “We have seen a lot of progress—on behalf of women as well."

It was a rare moment of levity at The Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit, which kicked off three days of events and panels on the status of women here and abroad.

"How far we've come," Clinton said, "and how far we have yet to go."

She noted that while nations across the globe updated their legal codes over the past 15 years to recognize gender equality, in practice, many of those laws go ignored. "Women's rights exist on the books, but not on the streets," she said, updating her Beijing mantra--'women's rights are human rights'--to a new, more pragmatic clarion call: "Women's progress is human progress."

Earlier, at an elegant dinner hosted by event co-sponsor HP, Melanne Verveer, Clinton's chief of staff when she was first lady and now the first-ever global ambassador for women's issues, painted a bleak picture of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and other examples of what she called "gendercide" around the world.

—Lloyd Grove


At Af-Pak Panel, Sharp Critiques of American Policies in the Region

Fatima Bhutto (Kevin Tachman for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

At the opening panel of the Women in the World summit Friday evening, Suraya Pakzad, founder of the Voice of Women organization, sent a stinging rebuke to the American and Afghan men leading her nation’s rebuilding efforts.

“When there is a security issue or development issue, women are not at the table at all,” she said. “They only call us when they want to talk about gender equality.… [But] we have to be everywhere.”

Though the new Afghan constitution ensures women’s rights and the country has signed on to a number of international agreements on gender equality, implementation of these laws is scarce. Ninety percent of Afghan women have experienced a human-rights violation and the vast majority of marriages are arranged—sometimes between grown men and girls as young as 10 years old. In rural areas, women are shielded from contact with men outside of their families, as well as with all foreigners.

"With her around, no glass ceiling is safe," Tina Brown said in her introduction of Hillary Clinton

Warlordism and daily violence make social change in Afghanistan difficult. Survival is the focus. But another speaker, Ching Eikenberry, a USAID official working in Afghanistan and the wife of the U.S. ambassador to the country, said some of the most profound obstacles to women’s equality are in the relative quiet of home, where men and women thrust together in arranged marriages may hardly know one another, and remain unaware of their spouse’s hopes or sources of discontent.

“Please lift the scarf and look at your wife,” Eikenberry asked Afghan men. “Not at how beautiful she is, but at how much strength and life are behind her beauty.”

At the discussion’s end, legendary Fear of Flying author Erica Jong asked the activists, “What can American women do for you?”

Americans should tell their elected leaders to fund a women’s shelter for every province in Afghanistan, Pakzad said; there are currently just eight or nine in the entire country. Another panelist, Daily Beast contributor Fatima Bhutto, had harsh words for the Obama administration. “It would be useful for your government to stop propping up governments like Hamid Karzai’s,” she said, “which is infamously corrupt.”

—Dana Goldstein


Tina Brown Kicks Off Summit

Tina Brown (Marc Bryan-Brown for The Daily Beast / Women in the World)

“Why are we doing this summit now?” asked Daily Beast co-founder and editor in chief Tina Brown when she took the stage to kick off the Daily Beast’s three-day Women in the World Summit at the Hudson Theatre in New York. “Why now? It’s really because we feel something is happening out there in the world. Empowering women is really the key to peace, prosperity and progress.”

Brown's statement opened up the three-day Women in the World summit, which will focus on challenges facing women and girls in the developing world, including child marriage, genital mutilation, domestic violence, and the use of rape as a weapon of war--and offer solutions for the problems.

Diane Von Furstenberg, CEO and founder of DVF Studio, a summit co-host, followed Brown onstage. “I often say that I have never met a woman who is not strong, because I don’t think they exist,” she said. “But sometimes—because of a husband, or because of a brother—the strength doesn’t come out.”

Susan Davis, chair of Vital Voices Global Partnership, took the stage next. “It’s all about the storytelling,” she said of their strategy. “We have learned through the powerful stories of women—and some of the men—who are working against some of the greatest challenges of this century. If we help to get these stories told, these women are given an opportunity to succeed, and sometimes it saves their lives.”

Kathy Bushkin Calvin, CEO of co-host the United Nations Foundation, said change needs to start now: "It’s time for a movement—and I hope that movement will start here.”

The next panel tackles the issue of women's lives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, moderated by Frances Townsend, a former homleand security assistant to President George W. Bush. At 8:30 p.m., Hillary Clinton will take the stage to introduce a reading of the play SEVEN, which will include performances by Meryl Streep and Marcia Gay Harden.

—Isabel Wilkinson