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Interviews with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Chinese Activist Ai Weiwei
Aired April 4, 2010 - 14:03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: This week, two powerful interviews with two unorthodox thinkers: Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, on the power of leadership; and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on the power of dissent
Hello, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.
This week, a reminder that women still have a long way to go to achieve equal rights, even here in the United States. We look at a new documentary, "Seneca Falls," and we talk to two actors on the world stage who are challenging conventional wisdom, one in China and one in Africa, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has redefined leadership in Africa...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL KAGAME, PRESIDENT OF RWANDA: We Rwandans have to be given peace to make our own decisions. It's our own decisions in the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And with Google apparently on the brink of leaving China, we explore dissent in the digital age with Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.
During the Cultural Revolution, great Chinese works were destroyed and millions of people were persecuted and jailed. Today, Ai Weiwei is using art to challenge the Communist Party. His outspoken criticism has won him world renown, and it has almost cost him his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Ai Weiwei has never been afraid to shatter the most potent symbols of Chinese culture and politics, in one photo series, dropping a priceless Han dynasty urn or painting Coca-Cola on another one, reflecting the commercialization of an ancient culture.
He helped design the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and then criticized the government for failing to use the Olympics to change its political ways.
But perhaps his bravest stance came after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan that killed thousands of schoolchildren. Ai Weiwei assembled activists to collect names of the dead and criticized on his blog the local government that allowed poorly built schools to crumble like sandcastles.
And that prompted a major exhibition in Munich called, "So Sorry," using the children's backpacks as a reminder of the young lives that were lost and his feeling that Chinese officials responded weakly to the children's deaths.
AI WEIWEI, ARTIST: One day, one mother of the (inaudible) 7-years-old girl. But she said, "All I want is she to be remembered." You know, she had been happily living in this world for seven years.
AMANPOUR: His art has taken a personal toll. The Chinese government has shut down his blog. And when Ai Weiwei traveled to Sichuan last year to testify on behalf of another activist, he says police came to his hotel room and beat him on the head. He posted photos on Twitter.
And a month later, when installing his Munich show, he was rushed to emergency brain surgery. Again, on Twitter, he posted his belief that this was the result of the police beating. And he told his story once again to tens of thousands of people all around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I spoke with Ai Weiwei earlier this week.
AMANPOUR: Thank you for being here.
AI WEIWEI, ARTIST: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Let's start at the beginning, because you've really brought art to a major peak of dissent right now, but let's start at the beginning with your own family's story. Your father -- and we have a picture of him right here in our desk with you -- he had a major influence on you. Tell me about your young years and your father's artistic experience.
WEIWEI: My father studied in Paris in 1930s. So in his 20s, he come back to China and he was put in jail immediately. He spent years in jail. And later, he joined the communist struggle.
AMANPOUR: And he was a hero of the Communist Party?
WEIWEI: For a while, he was. He was, because the Communist Party used his influence to really take a lot of young people to join the Communist Party.
AMANPOUR: Used his art, his poetry, and other works?
WEIWEI: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: So then they cracked down on him, right, in the Cultural Revolution?
WEIWEI: Long before that, 1957, the year I was born, he was crashed (ph) with about 300,000 Chinese intellectuals.
AMANPOUR: What influence did that have on you, on your art today and on your activism today?
WEIWEI: From very young age, I start to understand this nation has no humanity. They crash down (ph) everybody who has different opinions, not even different opinions, just different attitude, you can cost (ph) your life.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you particularly about how you use imagery to express that view. We saw in that taped piece -- and we've got the images of how you shattered an ancient antique Han dynasty urn and how you painted Coca-Cola on anther one. What was the point of that? What were you trying to say?
WEIWEI: I tried to encourage people to look at our past in a critical way, because as our education, we always have a greater, greater history. But in the reality, we are poorest (inaudible) philosophy.
AMANPOUR: You're poor...
WEIWEI: So I tried to bring people's conscious, how we deal with our past.
AMANPOUR: And what does shattering the urn mean, then? Shattering history? Shattering perceptions?
WEIWEI: I think by shattering it, we can create a new form, new way to look at what is valuable, how we decide what is valuable.
AMANPOUR: You said the system has no humanity. I'm looking at these amazing pictures here of your painted vases. Again, these are Neolithic, you told me, even older than Han.
AMANPOUR: What do you say and how do you explain what you're talking about in terms of humanity? You say it has no humanity. What do you mean by that?
WEIWEI: Well, you see, a party system, which crashed down everybody who -- anybody who have different opinions, who have very different ideas in the mind, so this -- to simply to have a different opinions can cost their life, can be put in jail, can be silenced, and can be disappeared.
And the other people would take a look at it without not -- with not even support.
AMANPOUR: So you're clearly really sort of working against that with your art, with your -- with your activism. How do you -- how do you make your dissent? How does art equal dissent?
WEIWEI: I think for me art has individual to use it, to express yourself, and to successfully communicate with others.
AMANPOUR: Well, what are you saying? And how are you using it?
WEIWEI: On myself, I try to -- try to search for the new way, always trying to set up a new possibility, and to find the new tools to express myself. So, you know, other to reach broader audience.
AMANPOUR: You were one of the artists who were chosen to do the so- called Bird's Nest, that incredible stadium that the Chinese government used for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and there we have that picture there. But you then called for a boycott of the Olympics. I mean, why did you participate and then pull back?
WEIWEI: My participation is because the Swiss architect firm, Herzog & de Meuron, invited me. I'm never invited by the nation to do the work. So I dealing with as a architectural project. Of course we want China to have the Olympics, so through that, China will become a part of the international family, to share the same values.
But very soon, I realized this is -- it's impossible. You know, Chinese government or the party are using it as a propaganda base, so I have to say this has got nothing to do with me.
AMANPOUR: And then afterwards was the earthquake in 2008 in Sichuan. And that seemed to be a turning point for you. What about the earthquake made you so loud and insistent in your objection to the system?
WEIWEI: Well, I -- I grew up, my experience about this society is how the -- how they're dealing with the truth. Through the earthquake, we soon realized there's many, many hidden truths that never would be revealed, such as how the students dead.
AMANPOUR: So the government was hiding the truth, then?
WEIWEI: Yes, the...
AMANPOUR: And how did you bring the truth out or try to?
WEIWEI: Well, we tried to ask very simple questions. Who is dead? For what reason and where? Which class it belongs to? And what's their birthday? So to in searching those names, the government -- we called the government.
They said, "You must be spy. You must be spy from United States if you want to know those informations. As an individual, why you want to know who's dead? And we'll never release it."
So we decided to form a kind of movement through the Internet to ask people who share the same kind of feelings to join us. So after a year of searching, we find about 5,000 names of those students, and their age, their name, and their family, and which schools it belongs to.
Very soon, we draw the conclusion, most the students are dead within these 20 schools, and they're dead because of bad construction.
AMANPOUR: And you turned that into a work of art in Munich?
WEIWEI: Well, I'm always trying to find how to get the message through, so we custom-made 5,000...
WEIWEI: ... backpacks of those students and to construct a simple sentence of the mother of a dead student.
AMANPOUR: Which was?
WEIWEI: It was, "She has been happily living in this world for seven years."
AMANPOUR: Before she was killed in the earthquake.
AMANPOUR: We'll have more with Ai Weiwei in a moment, his take on the power of Twitter in China, even though it's officially banned there. That's when we return.
AMANPOUR: While Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was in New York this week, media innovator Pat Mitchell hosted an important event for him, and she'll join our discussion in a moment. At that event, Ai Weiwei threw an interesting challenge at Jack Dorsey, who's the founder of Twitter. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEIWEI: Is that possible for you provide Chinese access on Twitter? I know you're some kind and maybe not responsible for that, but under your influence, the company, maybe they can do it. And this is a -- I need a clear answer, yes or no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of people waiting for your answer, Jack.
JACK DORSEY, FOUNDER OF TWITTER: I would say -- I would say, yes, it's just a matter of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So what were you trying to get? Is there no Twitter in China? I mean, we have the impression that there's Twitter everywhere. That was Jack Dorsey, the head of Twitter, the founder of Twitter.
WEIWEI: There's no Twitter in China. There's no Facebook in China. There's no YouTube in China. Now very soon we'll have no Google in China. Of course, you know there's no CNN in China.
AMANPOUR: Pat, how -- how is this happening? And what can the future of social media be in China, do you think?
PAT MITCHELL, PALEY CENTER FOR MEDIA: Social media technologies like Twitter and sites like Facebook and social networking sites are creating a new tool for activism. And it's terrifying to governments who don't want people to have that freedom.
AMANPOUR: But how can it be terrifying to them if it's not accessible?
WEIWEI: Well, today we have new technologies helping people to hop over the -- so-called the great firewall.
AMANPOUR: I see. Get around the restriction.
WEIWEI: Yes. But it's only very few people can do that. For example, the Chinese version of Twitter, now we have about 50,000 people, about writers, editors, journalists, who can get the information. And, also, they can get whatever we say in the West.
AMANPOUR: So we're looking right now at your Twitter page and your Twitter domain. Pat, this argument now between Google and China over censorship, how is it going to resolve itself?
MITCHELL: Well, it seems that Google is probably going to pull out, given the choice of staying and continuing a censored operation. And it's just pointing up how dangerous these new technologies are perceived by governments who have to keep people uninformed in order to stay in power. And there's no question that these technologies are game-changers.
AMANPOUR: You've had this blog. Have the Chinese pushed back? I understand they shut it down.
WEIWEI: Yes, they shut down three of my blogs in seven minutes, so you can see how fearful about somebody speak out their mind. I got over, you know, about 12 million readerships there, and the...
AMANPOUR: Twelve million?
WEIWEI: Yes, just one second, nobody can read my articles. So that educates a whole young generation from '80s, '90s. They all ask, why?
Why this man's name can never be tapped on the Chinese computer, and the whole sentence will disappear?
AMANPOUR: And just to be clear, you're able to be in China and to act in China and to walk around and do your art and do all that blogging? I mean, you're not sort of imprisoned or...
WEIWEI: No, I've never been imprisoned, but I have been told -- you know, my phone has been, you know, followed, and my banking account has been checked. You know, it's -- all kind of harassment is going on.
MITCHELL: And that's the dark side, isn't it, of the technology that they can do all that now? In the same way you can use digital technology for the activism, they can also use it for the snooping and the suppressing. And that's...
AMANPOUR: But is it because he's such a big name that he's not, you know, more seriously punished and cracked down, do you think?
MITCHELL: I think it might be that -- people kept asking you that last night, Weiwei. How you can go in and out of China, especially when you speak so strongly against the government?
WEIWEI: Yes, it's very hard to say. On the one hand, the prime minister would memorize my father's poetry in front of the great public, but on the other hand, the police were, you know, following me. So it's hard to say. You know, I was beaten almost to death, so, you know, this...
AMANPOUR: We have some pictures, actually, because when you were in Germany, you were rushed into emergency surgery, as we saw, and you had to have some medical attention there. And you Tweeted these pictures around the world. Are you afraid for your life as you continue this?
WEIWEI: No, I'm not afraid. I think my life in -- through I grew up, I've always been threatened in different circumstance, so I think this was safer (ph) if I speak for somebody else, and they know what I'm doing.
AMANPOUR: Ai Weiwei, Pat Mitchell, thank you both so much for joining us.
AMANPOUR: Next, more about the power of Ai Weiwei. We'll tell you what happened after our interview in a moment.
AMANPOUR: After our interview with Ai Weiwei, his Twitter followers joined us in one of our hash tag debates, using the hash tag "AmanWei." It was an emotional and lively discussion with the artist and his followers about the impact of social media.
One user tweeted in Chinese and said, "I feel that China and America are living on two different planets. Americans feel that freedom is as natural as air, but China doesn't have this air. Ai Weiwei has lived on both planets. He is bilingual."
And another Twitter user from China said that "Twitter in all its forms has already proven that it can be a thorn in dictators' sides, but dictators have also become smarter. To look at it another way, it can also be used to transmit misleading information to Twitterers."
And our hash tag debate is still raging, so log on now to amanpour.com/twitter and use the hash tag "AmanWei" to join in.
And next, we ask one of Africa's most powerful presidents, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, how he handles dissent in his country. And we'll be looking at a provocative new documentary on women struggles for equal rights here in America.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back. Rwanda has been dragged up from the depths of a bloody nightmare to become one of Africa's major success stories, and that's in large part due to its president, Paul Kagame.
Sixteen years ago, up to 1 million Rwandans were slaughtered in 100 days. It was one of the quickest genocides in modern history. And when the world refused to intervene, Paul Kagame led his Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory over the extremist forces who were carrying out the killings.
And, afterwards, he brought reconciliation and rebuilding to the country. And according to just about any indicator now, whether it's health, environment, the economy, or women's rights, Rwanda is the envy of its region.
But it has come at a cost, say his opponents, who complain about an autocratic political system. We spoke about all of these issues when we sat down together here in the studio.
AMANPOUR: President Kagame, thank you for joining us here.
PAUL KAGAME, PRESIDENT OF RWANDA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about some important matters here, and let's talk about the business situation in Rwanda. In the last post-genocide era, Rwanda's business and economic potential has really grown. And now you've got -- you've got the first country to become the top of the World Bank's annual list of ranking reformers. That is Rwanda in sub-Saharan Africa. How did that happen? What exactly does that mean?
KAGAME: Because we've put the private sector and its development and doing business at the top of social and economic transformation, we tried to look at what is necessary to be done in terms of regulations, in terms of laws, and other ways we can make it easy for people to do business.
AMANPOUR: You talk about dependence. Many countries are dependent on foreign aid, but I hear you sort of giving it a negative connotation. Do you just want Rwanda not to be dependent?
KAGAME: There are cases that you need aid. Rwanda has needed aid. It has received aid. What we are saying is, what do we need aid for? What we need aid for is to -- is to deal with the problems that are current that we have, but it is also to build a foundation which we should be able to build on ourselves and stop needing aid. It's a process.
If you look at in the last five decades or so, Africa, my own country, has received a lot of aid. But in many cases, you don't see anything for it, what that it has left behind. So, therefore, it raises the questions: Is there another way of building on aid so that you stop needing aid in the future?
AMANPOUR: In many of the social and economic indicators, Rwanda is ahead of many of the countries in your region, including in terms of women's political involvement and empowerment. And, in fact, Rwanda's is the only parliamentary house in the world where women hold the majority. Is that by dictate or is that elected? And what decision-making differences does it make to have women in the majority of parliament?
KAGAME: It is a combination of factors. One, the government made sure that, one, we recognize this as a factor of development. It's one thing we need to be aware of, that in our case, 53 percent of our population are women. You can't just shut them out of economic development and think that is very wise. So the more we bring them in, the better off we are.
Second, it's an issue of rights. I think, why shouldn't women enjoy same rights, education, to doing business, to decision-making like anybody else? So this is our decision, and it's our choice.
AMANPOUR: You talk about rights. And obviously, there are political rights that we need to talk about. And there are many, many people now who, on the one hand, admire what you've done to bring Rwanda out of its post-genocide disaster and its nightmare, and on the other hand, are very critical about your what they call increasing authoritarianism, the shrinking space for any kind of political opposition, and that this is becoming more and more of an issue.
KAGAME: What I say to that, there are things that don't add up here. We have, what you say, elections. We have (inaudible) 11 million people going out there and deciding for themselves who their leaders are going to be right from the president to members of parliament to mayors to different leaders.
Now, the second is, you cannot at the same time have this progress we are making, whether it is in education, in agriculture, in health, in investment, in everything. This cannot be done just by one man dictating that it happens. It involves the population.
AMANPOUR: You say it's up to the Rwandan people. Here we have the Green Party leader, Frank Habineza, who used to be a member of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front. Now, he's talking about death threats. He's talking about harassment. He's talking about a newspaper that had a headline that said, "Frank Habineza to be Killed in 60 Days."
He also has said, "I am scared, but I still believe a government should protect its citizens. I'm not a criminal. I just have different ideas."
KAGAME: But -- but, Christiane, you will have individuals saying anything they want to say depending on what or where they stand on issues, but you don't have to believe everyone who says whatever they want to say.
AMANPOUR: All right.
KAGAME: You have to go further than that and investigate and find out whether this person is even saying the truth.
AMANPOUR: But I guess the question I still am trying to probe is whether there can be space for political opposition in President Paul Kagame's Rwanda.
KAGAME: Oh, yes. That's why...
AMANPOUR: And so far, it seems that it's very tough. Let's take Victoire Ingabire.
KAGAME: No, before we leave that, that's why the Green Party is there. That's why this person you're talking about is there saying what they are saying. Now, if this person says the government wants to do this, why hasn't the government done that, if that's what it wants to do?
AMANPOUR: But he's saying that he's being prevented...
KAGAME: But he's there. He's there...
AMANPOUR: So will he be able to contest the election...
AMANPOUR: ... in safety and security?
KAGAME: Yes. But as I told you, all of us play by certain rules. There are issues of accountability for all of us, even for me, the president. For an individual, for a citizen, there are issues of accountability. That's why it is law. So if he follows what the measures of accountability are requesting, why not? Absolutely.
AMANPOUR: But I guess what people are saying is that the goalposts keep shifting, that the level playing field...
AMANPOUR: Well, let's take Victoire Ingabire. Now, she's the president of the FDU Inkingi (ph), and she says she's faced a very intense public campaign of vilification. Basically, you have openly warned her that she could face prosecution under Rwanda's genocide ideology laws.
AMANPOUR: And people are saying that you used those to quash political opposition.
KAGAME: No, I don't think -- it's just an insult to us or to the nation.
Let me talk about Ingabire (ph). Ingabire (ph) came to Rwanda. He was not in Rwanda even during genocide. He's been away from Rwanda for 17 years. He arrives. He comes -- first of all, he asks for (inaudible) passport. The government gave him a passport. She comes to Rwanda. She wants to contest.
The very day she arrived, she starts talking about (inaudible) genocide. She starts taking (ph), oh, this genocide of, you know, the Tutsis (inaudible) genocide of Hutus, and almost the same language -- the old language of incitement. This is on the record; it's not something I'm creating.
Now, of course, if you incite, if you are talking -- if you are denying genocide, if you are trying to create your own...
AMANPOUR: Is that what you're saying she's doing?
KAGAME: It's what she's doing. And I'm saying those who defend him - - or defend her, this woman of the other party, may find one day they've been defending the wrong person.
AMANPOUR: Let me get to the issue of leadership again, and this is about Congo. Africa's world war, millions of people have been killed there, mostly out of sight, and many say that Paul Kagame's troops bear a lot of the responsibility, that you sent the troops into there to keep back the Hutus and the extremists, you know, and more than 5 million have been killed.
KAGAME: Do you know the history of Congo?
KAGAME: The problems of Congo are more than 60 years old.
AMANPOUR: That's true. That's true.
KAGAME: So let's not...
AMANPOUR: But this started in 1998 (ph).
KAGAME: No, the problem started before I was born. We had Leopold...
AMANPOUR: I understand all of that, and all of the colonialism.
KAGAME: So why do people keep all that quiet, lock it up, and then start saying the problems of Congo, it is Kagame, it's the troops, it's the...
AMANPOUR: But just...
KAGAME: And let's talk about, also, how those who committed genocide in Rwanda went and lived in the Congo, how they benefited from the international community that were feeding them, spending $1 million every day feeding mothers, feeding people who would want to come back and kill people in Rwanda, and people want to keep quiet and say, "Oh, Kagame sent troops," as if there is no context for that. It doesn't make sense.
AMANPOUR: So when will...
KAGAME: This is an issue I have (inaudible)
AMANPOUR: When will those troops -- I mean, clearly, you have a reason for doing it. Some people say that it's a reason -- also an economic reason that you have a good, you know, hold on an area which is very rich in minerals, which is very beneficial to Rwanda.
KAGAME: But, first of all, where are the Congolese? I cannot be blamed for the problems of Congo or any other country. There are people, the Congolese, who have their own country, who are supposed to manage it, who are supposed to govern it. It has nothing to do with me.
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. It was nice to have you.
KAGAME: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And on our Facebook page, we're having a discussion about foreign aid. Can it make countries independent or only more dependent? Weigh in at amanpour.com/facebook.
And next, we turn to the struggle for women's equality. There are women heads of state in other countries, but not in the United States. We'll talk about that in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Obama and I believe that the subjugation of women is a threat to the national security of the United States.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighting the link between women's rights and global security. Clinton herself a former presidential candidate and senator is a vivid example of what women can achieve here in the United States, but activists say that the struggle for equality is far from over.
And joining me now is Louise Vance, director of a provocative new documentary, "Seneca Falls," and Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, to empower women in business and politics.
Thank you both very much for joining us.
LOUISE VANCE, DIRECTOR, "SENECA FALLS": Thank you.
MARIE WILSON, FOUNDER, WHITE HOUSE PROJECT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: That was quite a powerful statement made by Hillary Clinton. Is it really a matter of national and global security?
WILSON: I couldn't agree more. I mean, the only way I think we are going to change what has corrupted us financially and what keeps us in wars in this world is to get a diverse and critical mass of women into leadership alongside men.
AMANPOUR: Which is your project, which is -- which is through the...
AMANPOUR: ... mission of your work. I'm going to ask you, Louise, you've just made a provocative new film, which is airing on PBS right now, called "Seneca Falls." Why -- we're going to show a clip of it, but I want to know what the motivation was and what message you were trying to get across.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you understand that, without the work of all these women, that you wouldn't be able to do what you're able to do now in your life?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, but it's like, the thing about me and, like, this whole feminist movement thing is, like, everyone -- it seems like everyone's dwelling so much on the fact that we couldn't do this and we couldn't do that, but I look at it as, well, now we can, you know? And those women made it possible, and so be thankful, and get over it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Be thankful and get over it, this whole feminist thing, says that young girl. I mean, that's fairly extraordinary, or is that common now, amongst young women now?
VANCE: I think what's common is that women of all ages, but particularly young women, have no idea that the condition of women 150 years ago in this country was really akin to slavery. Women had no rights. They were banned from college. They didn't own their wages. They couldn't sit on a jury. They couldn't hold public office. They were really in a condition that is hard to describe or even conceive of today.
So we're not taught that in school. And that was the reason for making this film. It's not in our national consciousness. It's not in our collective memory. And as one of the young women says -- not the one who was complaining, but another one -- said, you know, knowing your history gives you courage. It lets you know that you can change the world.
AMANPOUR: But it is extraordinary, as you try to lobby and work for equal rights and parity across the board, that the young women of today who are the movers and shakers and the leaders of today, think that the fight is all over.
WILSON: Well, I just want to bring one contradiction into it. And I agree that, unlike us, who (inaudible) possible, they see it as possible. And so that's good.
But what's really happening, Christiane, that is so amazing is our work in terms of attracting a diversity of young women to come and run for office is the most powerful work I've ever seen. For every 100 women we have in the room training them to run, there are 40 now outside waiting, and they are 40 percent to 50 percent women of different racial and ethnic groups and 75 percent under 35, which is what you have to be to get to the top. So somewhere, Hillary Clinton, Obama, something has planted a different seed.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me -- let me play a quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, justice on the Supreme Court, about the issue of women's rights being enshrined in the Constitution. She has basically said that every modern constitution, ever constitution written since the World War II era, includes a provision that men and women are citizens of equal stature. Ours does not, she says, meaning the United States Constitution.
Is that the aim of your film, among others, to teach young girls what they still need to fight for?
VANCE: Well, I think the aim is to see where we've come from and then to say, what needs doing? We don't have an equal rights amendment, and we're one of the few nations that has not signed CEDAW, which is -- this is a declaration of...
WILSON: The convention.
VANCE: ... the convention to end discrimination against women. It's a worldwide document that has not been signed by the United States. So we are lagging behind in the United States, despite all the freedoms that we appear to have.
AMANPOUR: Does it make a difference materially in all the projects of women's empowerment not to have it enshrined in the Constitution? Is that something that modern-day women and activists like yourself...
WILSON: Well, why are we 71st in the world in women's political representation?
WILSON: Seventy-first in the world out of 189 countries. Because we won't do things like conventions and quotas. If we would actually ratify the convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, we would have more women rising into leadership in every sector of American society.
AMANPOUR: So what are the biggest barriers right now to that kind of equality, I mean, you, as you were doing this film?
VANCE: Well, I don't think that -- if you don't see your place in history and you constantly see -- in the public discourse, you see women on the sidelines, women in the margins, and it's unusual for a woman to run for president or be elected to high office, I just think that young women growing up do not see themselves in this mirror. They don't -- they don't conceive that they can enact change.
But, you know, when you go back and you look at history, it's often shaped by these small acts of courage, so a couple of people get together, like they did in Seneca Falls, and they ran a newspaper ad, 300 people showed up, and they had a public meeting. And from there, they started a movement that freed half of this country. So people don't see that they have the ability to create change.
AMANPOUR: It's sometimes for me extraordinary, because I've traveled the world in my work, and I see many, many women elected to the highest office all over the world, even in areas that the United States, you know, still is saying needs to be more developed, yet on women's issues, they're quite developed. Do you find that odd as, you know, an American in the most developed democracy in the world that you're so far behind many other countries?
WILSON: For 10 years working on the issue of women's leadership, I find it so odd, but I have run into this whole business about -- the cultural ideal of women, Christiane, is still wife and mother in the United States, so we have to do something about how women actually can do both.
But most of all, I want to tact onto courage, because what everybody who's watching this show could do as an act of encouragement is to actually call a young woman today and say, "I saw a show, and I want to invite you to lead in this country. I want you to actually think about being on a school board. I just think you're terrific." Because the invitation factor is amazing. The courage to do that is extraordinary.
AMANPOUR: And the last word, Louise Vance, what do you hope that your film will inspire?
VANCE: Courage. The knowledge that women can come together with men, women can jointly look at the problems that face the world, they can enter into the conversation, they can enter into business and politics and all of those realms, and really make a contribution. Let's have everybody's ideas. We have a lot of things to solve, so...
WILSON: It's a lovely film. It's a lovely film.
AMANPOUR: Looking forward to seeing it on PBS this month.
VANCE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much, both of you, for joining us.
And on our new Google Buzz account, there's a conversation buzzing about whether women have achieved equality. Weigh in at amanpour.com/buzz.
And in our "Post-Script" up next, we look at a woman who wields extraordinary influence around the world without any access to modern technology. That's up next.
AMANPOUR: And now for our "Post-Script."
In this hour, we've talked about the power of social networking and the power of women to promote change. But the most potent people can stir support and encourage change even without those modern organizing tools of Twitter and the Internet.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who's the opposition leader in Myanmar, Burma, is a good example. She remains under house arrest, with no telephone line, no cell phone, and no computer, and no access to the World Wide Web, but still her message resonates around the world.
Take a look at her followers in New Delhi who are expressing their anger at her detention, throwing rocks at the Myanmar embassy in India, and painting anti-regime slogans on the wall. They echo her cause. They are a human kind of web and a powerful example of a message that reverberates around the globe, even though the messenger, Aung San Suu Kyi herself, remains detained and gagged.
That's our report. Thanks for joining us. And during the week, you can watch our program on CNN International and catch the whole program on podcast at amanpour.com/podcast.
For all of us here, goodbye from New York.