10 Inspirational Moments From The 2013 Women In The World Summit

Meryl Streep, 2013 Women In The World
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Meryl Streep, Oprah, Angelina Jolie and more pay homage to incredible women leaders.

The 4th annual Women In The World summit, hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, was something to see. The two-day event, held at NYC's Lincoln Center, showcased some of the most confident, courageous women leaders and activists from countries as varied at Syria, Pakistan and Myanmar, as well as right here in the states. Celebrities including Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie and Oprah stepped out to honor these amazing women, who don't receive nearly as much fanfare as they deserve.

From Tom Hanks' emotional speech about Nora Ephron as the woman who truly "had it all" to teen activist Malala Yousafzai as honored by a humbled Angelina Jolie, the event put a spotlight on the incredible challenges and victories of women all across the globe — and the fearless female leaders who are quite literally risking their lives to make a difference.

1. "A call to action, a call to arms, to link arms. Inez McCormack, her great heart beats on in us." — Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep paid tribute to the late Inez McCormack, a women's activist from Northern Ireland who demanded equal pay for equal work — "that radical notion," Meryl quipped. Ever the performer, she even adopted an Irish brogue during part of her homage to McCormack, a personal friend of the star's who passed just 10 weeks before the summit.

2. "I told my dad, 'Not doing this work would kill me. Doing this work would keep me alive. Let me go.'" — Young Pakistani activist Khalida Brohi to Christiane Amanpour

Pakistani activist Khalida Brohi, founder and director of the Sughar Women Program, is devoted to ending tribal violence against women in Pakistan. In a video clip shown at the summit, Brohi confronts misogynistic village men who proudly proclaim that women who feel they have a right to education deserve "the bullet." How did she practice such patience in the face of hate? "I think I was patient over there, because I knew that these men would one day be working for me," Brohi proclaimed. Her confidence, passion and precocious intellect earned her a standing ovation from the Women In The World audience.

3. "They shot her at point-blank range in the head — and made her stronger.Angelina Jolie, referring to Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist

Malala Yousafzai, 15, was shot in the head by the Taliban last year because of her insistence on her right to an education — and for the same rights for all the girls of Pakistan. Yousafzai once said, "I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is an education, and I'm afraid of no one." A soft-spoken Jolie honored the teenager ("She is powerful but she is also a sweet, creative, loving little girl who wants to help others, to work for others. She doesn't want to be the center of attention. Her goal is progress not notoriety"), and she personally donated $200,000 to the Malala Fund, which promotes the education of girls in Pakistan.

4. "We need to make equal pay and equal opportunity for women and girls a reality, so women's rights are human rights once and for all." — Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton opened the second day of the Women In The World conference with a powerful speech reminding us that women's rights are still human rights —and talked about Malala Yousafzai's role in the battle for women's rights. Malala was a threat to the Taliban who shot her, said Clinton. "But fighting to give women and girls a fighting chance isn't a nice thing to-do. It isn’t some luxury that we get to when we have time on our hands to spend," she said. "This is a core imperative for every human being in every society. If we do not continue the campaign for women’s rights and opportunities, the world we want to live, the country we all love and cherish, will not be what it should be." 

5. "Women should be in all the negotiations. What is happening to Syrian women is not just a women's issue. It’s a foreign policy issue." — Syrian activist Mouna Ghanem to Barbara Walters

"Why should we care about the women of Syria," Barbara Walters inquires of activist Mouna Ghanem, referencing Syria's social injustice. Women "hold the only hope in Syria," Ghanem responds passionately, as she sits beside her collleague, activist Zainab Salbi. Ghanem goes on to explain that negotiation is needed to bring democracy and peace to the war-ravaged country — and women need to be part of the discussion.

6. "It's about love, realism, and encouragement." — Ballerina Michaela DePrince's mother, Elaine DePrince on supporting her children's dreams.

Elaine DePrince raised two biological sons and nine adopted children. Women In the World honored her daughter, ballerina Michaela DePrince, who escaped an orphanage in the Sierra Leone and is now the youngest member of New York's Dance Theatre of Harlem. Michaela's skin condition, vitiligo, causes her to have "spots," as she call them; the workers in the Sierra Leone orphanage where Elaine DePrince found her considered the condition a sign that she was a "demon child," and used it as an excuse to abuse and neglect her. The story of the DePrince family exemplifies the healing powers of the human spirit — and a mother's love.

7. "When we educate boys, they will so be respectful of girls. If we don’t educate boys today, 100 years from now they will be talking about being marginalized by women." —  Dr. Tererai Trent to Oprah

Oprah was honored to interview her hero Tererai Trent, who she said was her favorite person to interview. Trent's Tinogona Foundation works to provide the opportunity for an education to all Africa’' women and girls. Oprah also likened the entire Women In The World summit to "church," and we couldn't agree more. It was a spiritual experience.

8. "Nora [Ephron] herself confessed that she did, indeed, have it all — complete happiness, that is — but that didn't happen until she married an Italian." — Tom Hanks paying tribute to Nora Ephron

Tom Hanks became choked up as he honored Ephron with a heartfelt speech, where he said his friend mastered the art of having it all. Hanks, who starred in two of Ephron's films (Sleeples In Seattle and You've Got Mail), said that being a mother was the least instinctive of Nora's abilities, "where her roots as a journalist were most tentative. And because of that lack of complete confidence, and again, if one can be so bold, it may be as a mother that Nora is surprisingly accessible to us. Most recognizable as one of us.

9. "South Africa needs to restore the promise of freedom and the values and principles that so many of us fought for, and many of my old friends and colleagues died for. We cannot afford to continue to betray that promise, that passion that got us  to fight and win our freedom." — Dr. Mamphela Ramphele to Charlie Rose

Anti-apartheid activist and South African presidential candidate Dr. Mamphela Ramphele gives an impassioned plea at the Women In The World summit, emphasizes the need for better education in her country. "Every day that children are being sent to schoold where there are no textbooks and teachers are not skilled ... that day represents betrayal of our children and our grandchildren."

10. "We don't want copy tracks because we want to create our own way and also now we have freedom of speech in our country and we can say what we want." — Me N Ma Girls, Myanmar's first-ever pop group

Closing out the Women In The World Summit were a quintuplet of young women who couldn't be happier to be there ("Hello, New York!" several of them exclaimed). Me N Ma Girls — the name itself a play on their repressive mother land — talked about being not only the first female pop group in their nation, but also the first musical act to perform original hits. Until now, censorship in Myanmar had prevented any other musical acts from created and performing their own music — reducing them, essentially, to karaoke acts.

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