University News

Hillary Clinton advisor connects women’s rights, foreign policy

Jennifer Klein ’87 discusses intersection of women’s rights with economics, national security

senior staff writer
Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Jennifer Klein ’87, senior advisor to Hillary Clinton and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown Law Center, spoke at the School of Public Health Thursday, delivering a lecture titled “Women’s Health and Rights: A Matter of National Security?”

The women’s rights movement remains in the national dialogue even as people assume that gender balances no longer persist in the modern era, Klein said. Even in the last 20 years since the landmark 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, women’s rights advocates have made a great deal of progress.

Over those 20 years, change has not always been easy, Klein said.

Describing her experience working on Capitol Hill, Klein remarked on how difficult it can be to gain acceptance of women’s issues in some political circles. “It wasn’t so much resistance — they just hadn’t thought about women as important,” she told The Herald. “For some, it was quite a revelation.”

But more and more people, both on Capitol Hill and beyond, are beginning to realize that advancing women’s rights is both just and practical, Klein said. “A growing body of evidence demonstrates why promoting gender equality is related to stability, progress, development and peace.”

Klein’s lecture concentrated on the connection between women’s health and foreign policy and highlighted the role of women’s health in conflict. She pointed out how rape is used as a strategic tool in warfare and how the health of women suffers in times of conflict.

“One thing that stuck out to me was how easy it is to destabilize a community by raping its women,” said Denise Marte MD’19, who attended Klein’s talk. “It’s something that I knew happened, but I didn’t think about the implications that much.”

Bianca Jambhekar GS, a master’s student at the School of Public Health, was surprised by the talk’s emphasis on foreign policy. “My expectation was that we were going to cover more U.S. issues,” she said.

In her role as advisor to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Klein allocates most of her time to domestic issues, which voters value more highly, she told The Herald. She focuses on causes such as equal pay, paid leave, child care and minimum wage. While many refer to these as “women’s economic issues,” she refers to them only as “economic issues.” Klein also devotes much of her time to women’s health, particularly reproductive health.

“People are convinced by evidence,” Klein told The Herald, citing a McKinsey and Company study suggesting that achievable increased economic participation by women could result in a 1 percent annual increase in gross domestic product. Organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are now working on issues of gender, she added. “People can see it’s an investment that actually works.”

But there is still much to be done, Klein said. The United States is one of seven member states in the United Nations that has not ratified the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which is often described as an international bill of rights for women.

More research is also needed in the areas of women’s rights and health — there isn’t enough information about women’s unpaid work or the births, deaths and marriages of women in many locations around the globe, Klein said.

Still, women’s issues have come into the spotlight during this election season, concerning Hillary Clinton’s campaign in particular, Klein said. “If you care about reproductive rights and health, it’s entirely clear that all of the Republicans remaining in the field are really downright harmful,” Klein told The Herald. “There’s a huge amount at stake for women.”

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