By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The first female president of Ireland was in Philadelphia today, International Women’s Day, for an event presented by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

“All human beings are born free and equal, in dignity and rights,” the Hon. Mary Robinson told the gathering.

Beginning her career as a lawyer and politician in Ireland, she was elected as the country’s first female president in 1990.

“So many women decided to vote differently from their men and their fathers, to cast a vote and change things in Ireland,” she recalled.  “There is no doubt that somebody with my background getting elected as president signified a much more open and pluralist Ireland.”

Robinson served as president of Ireland for seven years, until 1997, when she became the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

For decades she has traveled in a variety of positions, including as a member of “The Elders,” a group started by Nelson Mandela.

“Ten million girls a year get married well before they are ready for it,” Robinson noted today.  “I traveled with Desmond Tutu to the Amhara region (of Ethiopia).  We found that the average age of marriage in the region was twelve.  That’s the average!  So there were quite a few women married well before they are able for it.”

As a lawyer, Robinson has challenged laws that limit women’s ability to use contraceptives and plan their families.  She now runs the Mary Robinson Foundation, which works on behalf of the millions most affected by climate

Her soon-to-be-published book is titled, “Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice.”

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