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Marie Wilson, founder and president of the White House Project, came in the other day for a Video View. Her primary mission was to promote a global conference taking place in New York on Nov. 15. It’s called The International Women Leaders Global Security Summit.
This is no mid-level gabfest. Among the 70 or so slated to attend: New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, former Irish President Mary Robinson, Tarja Halonen of Finland, Emily Saidy de Jongh-Elhage of Netherlands Antilles and former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, as well as nonpolitical folks like Maya Angelou, Geena Davis and Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams.
Why bring together only women to talk about these issues? “We need to shift how we think about securing this world,” says Wilson. “There are now 90% civilian casualties in war. You have to secure people. You have to give them jobs, education, healthcare.” She adds that every attendee will talk about the meetings they are going to and how they intend to make a difference, as well as take a pledge to lead in this area. One idea is to create a female “force on security that can travel to parts of the world to call attention” to key issues.
It’s a laudable, if daunting, aim. Then again, so was Wilson’s original mission of getting a woman into the White House. Now that Hillary Clinton is a front-runner, I asked her how the nonpartisan group’s stance on the current election. “We want a woman who is the front runner but it will really be good when she’s not the one and only.” That said, Wilson points to studies that show a higher comfort level among Americans with seeing women in every type of leadership role. The frustration is how long it’s taking for them to get there.
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