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Text version below transcribed directly from audio] Thank you very much, Gertrude Mongellafor your dedicated work that has brought us to this point, distinguished delegates, and guests: This is truly a celebration, a celebration of the contributions women make in every aspect of life: It is also a coming together, much the way women come together every day in every country.
We come together in fields and factories, in village markets and supermarkets, in living rooms and board rooms. Whether it is while playing with our children in the park, or washing clothes in a river, or taking a break at the office water cooler, we come together and talk about our aspirations and concern.
And time and again, our talk turns to our children and our families. However different we may appear, there is far more that unites us than divides us.
We share a common future, and we are here to find common ground so that we may help bring new dignity and respect to women and girls all over the world, and in so doing bring new strength and stability to families as well.
By gathering in Beijing, we are focusing world attention on issues that matter most in our lives -- the lives of women and their families: There are some who question the reason for this conference. Let them listen to the voices of women in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces.
There are some who wonder whether the lives of women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe. Let them look at the women gathered here and at Huairou -- the homemakers and nurses, the teachers and lawyers, the policymakers and women who run their own businesses.
Earlier today, I participated in a World Health Organization forum. In that forum, we talked about ways that government officials, NGOsand individual citizens are working to address the health problems of women and girls. There, the discussion will focus on local -- and highly successful -- programs that give hard-working women access to credit so they can improve their own lives and the lives of their families.
What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish.
If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well.
That is why every woman, every man, every child, every family, and every nation on this planet does have a stake in the discussion that takes place here.
Over the past 25 years, I have worked persistently on issues relating to women, children, and families. Over the past two and a half years, I've had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women in my own country and around the world. I have met new mothers in Indonesia, who come together regularly in their village to discuss nutrition, family planning, and baby care.
I have met working parents in Denmark who talk about the comfort they feel in knowing that their children can be cared for in safe, and nurturing after-school centers. I have met women in South Africa who helped lead the struggle to end apartheid and are now helping to build a new democracy.
I have met with the leading women of my own hemisphere who are working every day to promote literacy and better health care for children in their countries. I have met women in India and Bangladesh who are taking out small loans to buy milk cows, or rickshaws, or thread in order to create a livelihood for themselves and their families.
I have met the doctors and nurses in Belarus and Ukraine who are trying to keep children alive in the aftermath of Chernobyl. The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard.
Yet much of the work we do is not valued -- not by economists, not by historians, not by popular culture, not by government leaders. At this very moment, as we sit here, women around the world are giving birth, raising children, cooking meals, washing clothes, cleaning houses, planting crops, working on assembly lines, running companies, and running countries.
Women also are dying from diseases that should have been prevented or treated.
They are watching their children succumb to malnutrition caused by poverty and economic deprivation. They are being denied the right to go to school by their own fathers and brothers. They are being forced into prostitution, and they are being barred from the bank lending offices and banned from the ballot box.
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