Speakers take turns during Club de Madrid at Clinton School. (Photo: Dustin Wilson/THV 11 News)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Former President Bill Clinton opened a global debate with more than 60 former leaders from across the world. They discussed the current divide between men and women specifically in the political realm.
Club de Madrid, a non-profit group of former political leaders, flooded Little Rock to put women in the spotlight. The leaders want this debate to not only will stir up quality discussion but also concrete action.
"What specifically can we do, or what can we help governments and local civil society do, to close the gap between stated policy and real reality in the lives of women in all these countries?" asked Clinton. That question was posed to more than 60 former leaders from countries across the world.
Despite significant strides for women's rights in America, President Clinton said discrete laws protecting women's roles in society are few and far between.
"More than 90 percent of women were illiterate, but men were not that much literate also, so they were guided by tradition," said Former President of Mozambique Africa, Joaquim Chissano. "Early age marriages, polygamy, and this issue of not letting their children to go to school even boys, but for girls it was worse."
President Clinton asked Former President of Kyrgyzstan, Roza Otenbayeva about becoming the first woman in office in her country and helping implement peaceful elections.
"We have conducted three elections, referendum, parliamentary election and presidential election. Then, I passed over the power to President Elected, and this is first ever. Such a peaceful transfer of the power," said Otenbayeva.
President Clinton brought up examples of women rights issues in the Middle East.
"We had a seventeen year old girl in Afghanistan despairing of the fact that she was first in her class. Dreamed of going to medical school," said Clinton. "She was forced by her own parents into an arranged marriage, so she tried to commit suicide by jumping off of her house, broke her back, and was turned into an invalid."
Clinton went on to describe the Afghani gender court ruled in her favor, but it nearly cost her life.
The Club de Madrid went on to open up the floor for other representatives to chime in with solutions to gender gap across the world.
Earlier Monday during the conference, the "Little Rock Accord" was signed between Club de Madrid and P80 Group Foundation. The accord will create an energy task force, in an effort to increase investment for clean energy from public and private pension funds.