US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, meets United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations headquarters on Friday, March 12, 2010. - Photo by AP.

UNITED NATIONS Describing the subjugation of women as a threat to American security, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a passionate plea on Friday to give equal rights to women around the world.

“The subjugation of women is a direct threat to the security of the United States,” the chief US diplomat told an international women's conference at UN headquarters.

“It is also a threat to the common security of our world, because the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations go hand in hand,” she said.

Mrs Clinton characterised granting of rights to women as the “central challenge that will determine the peace and progress of the 21st century”.

Talking about Afghan women, she said “As I said in London in January, the women of Afghanistan have to be involved at every step in securing and rebuilding their country.

“Our stabilisation strategy for both Afghanistan and Pakistan includes a Women's Action Plan that promotes women's leadership in both the public and private sectors; increases their access to education, health and justice; and generates jobs for women, especially in agriculture.”

The top US diplomat underlined the link between continued enhancement of women's status and economic development. “Women's progress is human progress, and human progress is women's progress.”

Those words were clearly meant to echo Mrs Clinton's own words at the World Conference on Women in Beijing which she attended as the first lady of the United States 15 years ago. At that conference she had said “Women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women's rights.”

On Friday, Mrs Clinton's speech not only marked the 15th anniversary of her 1995 speech, but also wrapped up events held in connection with this year's International Women's Day at the UN.