Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has a message for the would-be democratic reformers of the Middle East: It's time to let women make decisions, too.
Appearing at an all-star gathering of women, Clinton said Tuesday that the transitions from autocracy in Egypt and Tunisia would be incomplete as long as half of society remained blocked off from participating in governance.
"The United States will stand firmly for the proposition that women must be included in whatever process goes forward," she said.
The secretary delivered her remarks at a ceremony honoring 10 women for efforts from promoting good governance in Cameroon and the education of girls in Pakistan, to combating scourges such as sexual harassment in China, domestic abuse in Afghanistan and so-called "honor killings" in Jordan.
Speaking before first lady Michelle Obama, the female president of Kyrgyzstan and prime minister of Australia, Clinton said women who braved an Egyptian crackdown by protesting against Hosni Mubarak's government expected a role in their country's future. Yet she lamented that no women were included in efforts to redraft the constitution.
"They have now insisted that their voices be heard," Clinton said. "And in the coming months and years, the women in Egypt and Tunisia and other nations have just as much right as the men to remake their governments _ to make them responsive, accountable, transparent."
The event was scheduled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, and Clinton told a hall full of international women leaders that their work was essential for a generation of 850 million girls and young women between 10 and 24. She said the U.S. would closely watch how faithful the Middle East's democratic movements are to their ideals when it comes to women.
"No government can succeed if it excludes half of its people from important decisions," she said.