The Clinton Global Initiative added gender equity as a pillar of the nonprofit’s work to sound the alarm about the increasing challenges women and girls currently face, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.
The conference addressed numerous pressing global issues before wrapping up Tuesday evening – from food insecurity, which World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain called “desperation,” to climate change – with 160 new monetary commitments announced that could total billions of dollars in new funding.
“Whatever the issue — it’s connected to women and it falls more heavily on women,” Chelsea Clinton said. “It also requires us to center women in how we think about what our collective response should be.”
She echoed the famous line, “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights,” from then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s speech to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. However, Chelsea Clinton said that while there has been progress for gender equality since then, “we’ve stalled out in some areas and we’ve regressed in others.”
“I think that it’s important to acknowledge all of that,” she said. “We have to secure the progress that we’ve made and keep pushing forward.”
That also applies to Ukraine. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the new CGI Ukraine Action Network, which is “committed to sustaining a deliberate international focus on Ukraine and supporting new commitments to action.”
CGI announced numerous new programs for Ukraine — from actor Orlando Bloom’s plan to raise $20 million to provide new laptops to 50,000 students to So-Light Design’s pledge to provide 30,000 SoLights, individual solar-powered light sources, to Ukrainians who lack consistent access to electricity.
“We are in this for the long haul for Ukraine, Ukrainians, and for democracy everywhere,” Hillary Clinton said. “Their fight is our fight. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.”
She also presented First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska with this year’s Clinton Global Citizen Award for “extraordinary leadership amid unimaginable, difficult circumstances, and who has been a forceful advocate for peace and a relentless champion of her determined people.”
Zelenska, who worked with Hillary Clinton for the past year designing the Ukraine Action Network, accepted the award on behalf of all Ukrainians who she said keep the country going each day in the face of attacks from Russia. “All of them are my compatriots and I am grateful to them,” she said. “A leader is the one who comes to help, who stands by those who need help. I’m grateful to the American people and their friends and family for being such leaders.”
Cindy McCain was looking to CGI for similar leaders to help address the growing problem of food insecurity.
“From the World Food Programme’s perspective, the world on fire,” she told former President Bill Clinton. “This is nothing to play with now… We have hundreds of millions of people who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.”
McCain said recent disasters in Africa could plunge the region into chaos due to a lack of food. “I am scared for the first time in this job,” she said. “I’m scared about what will happen next.”
Chef Jose Andres, founder of World Central Kitchen, agreed with McCain that food insecurity should be seen as a national security issue. He said that the war in Ukraine is as much a war about feeding the world, since Ukraine normally feeds about 500 million people annually, as it is a war about them keeping their freedom.
Andres said he was proud to be part of the Ukraine Action Network to help out through World Central Kitchen.
“Over the past almost two years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Ukraine and with the World Central Kitchen Ukrainian team members,” he told The Associated Press. “WCK has served over 240 million meals since the invasion of Ukraine began, by mobilizing a network of local cooks, community organizers, and volunteer organizations to provide food, when, where, and how it’s most needed. We have been filling gaps by listening to and following the Ukrainians – Ukrainians feeding Ukrainians – and we constantly adapt to meet the need.”
Chelsea Clinton said the new gender equity pillar and the Ukraine Action Network provide a structure for expanding CGI’s work that allows it to be more effective.
“This work has to be coherent and it also has to be bold and ambitious, but with clear underlying targets to kind of hold ourselves accountable,” she said. “It is so that we are very clear about what we’re driving toward.”
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