Hillary Clinton Reflects on Famous 1995 Women's Rights Speech at 'Once and For All' Doc Premiere

Hillary Clinton attends AOL's MAKERS: Once And For All Premiere at the DOC NYC - H 2015
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for AOL

"Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all," the then-First Lady said at the first women's conference in Beijing.

In 1995, Hillary Clinton traveled to Beijing to participate in the first-ever women’s conference and to advocate for women’s rights in a surprisingly moving speech punctuated by her declaration that "human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all."

Clinton's role in that conference is explored in the documentary MAKERS: Once and For All, which screened as the closing night film at the DOC NYC festival in New York on Thursday night and is currently available for streaming on Makers.com, the women's leadership platform launched by AOL in 2012.


The Democratic presidential candidate was on hand Thursday night to introduce the movie before the screening at Manhattan's SVA Theater.

"I felt very passionately that the United States needed to be represented and I personally wanted to push the envelope on women’s rights as far as I could. So I joined a group of 189 governments and thousands of advocates and together everyone there was a part of making history and laying a blueprint for action," Clinton said of her role at the conference.

In the film, Clinton says that she was determined to attend the conference and would have flown herself had the U.S. government not permitted her. Given the political climate, the human rights violations leveled against China and the perceived unimportance of the conference, Clinton’s attendance was controversial. That she delivered such a rousing speech addressing China’s own injustices provided a watershed moment, but Clinton remains humble about her remarks.

"It seemed like a serious, obvious thing to say," she says in the film in regard to the "women's rights" quote.

"You will see footage in this film that no one’s ever seen and I don’t know where [filmmaker Dyllan McGee] got it," Clinton said Thursday night. "You will get a sense, I hope, of both the excitement and the anxiety that surrounded the challenges in Beijing."

Those challenges included a government that was so ill-prepared for the conference that they moved thousands of activists 30 miles to Huairou and also grappled with world delegates who were unable to agree on the precise wording of vital provisions in the drafted document such as the inclusion of the phrase "sexual rights." Many of the attendees interviewed for the documentary spoke about the trying circumstances and the inspiration they took away from Clinton and others that they then brought back to their respective corners of the globe.

"The incredible resolve and commitment that comes through in the interviews, on the faces of the women that you will see just speaks volumes," Clinton said before the screening.

In addition to Clinton, the film features interviews with Jane Fonda, Madeleine Albright and Andrea Mitchell.

While the film celebrates the strides made at the conference and those made thereafter it also emphasizes the need to continue to push for women’s rights globally, something Clinton echoed in her own remarks at the screening.

"There is still a lot to do, here at home and of course around the world. By watching this film and talking about this film, I hope each of you will think of ways that you can continue the action that started in Beijing," Clinton said. "The work is so important. For the kind of society we want, the kind of country we want and the kind of world we hope for for the next generation."