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Hillary Clinton, the former US secretary of state and possible candidate to become America's first female president, called women's rights on Friday the "unfinished business of the 21st century."
Clinton, whose current spree of public appearances is feeding speculation that she's interested in a 2016 White House run, got standing ovation after ovation from the mostly female audience at the Women in the World conference in New York.
The wife of former president Bill Clinton, gave no hints about her own ambitions, instead devoting her speech to what she called "the great unfinished business of the 21st century: the advancing of rights of women and girls."
"Too many women are treated, at best, as second class citizens; at worst as a some kind of subhuman species," she said.
However, Clinton cited powerful local outrage over the shooting of a Pakistani teenage girl by the Taliban and the gang rape of an Indian woman as evidence of a potential sea change in which social media tools have given activists far greater power.
"We are meeting at a remarkable moment of confluence," she said. "There is a powerful new current of grassroots activism stirring, galvanized by events too outrageous to ignore, and enabled by new technology that give women and girls voices like never before."
"We need to seize this moment," she said.
Clinton said the need to expand women's education, healthcare access and employment opportunities wasn't just "a nice thing to do," but an integral part of building more stable, prosperous societies in troubled, male-dominated parts of the world like Pakistan.
"Laws and traditions that hold back women, hold back entire societies," she said.
However, Clinton also turned her sights on her own country, noting that women's life expectancy has shrunk in the United States, as has participation by girls in school science.
"The clock is turning back," she said.
Concerning the possibility that she might try to break the ultimate glass ceiling when President Barack Obama finishes his second term, Clinton did not even drop a clue.
"I look forward to being your partner in all the days and years ahead," was all she told the rapt crowd in the packed 2,586-seat David H. Koch Theater in Manhattan's Lincoln Center.