The Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, capital of the People's Republic of China, from September 4 through 15 with representatives from 189 governments. As was custom, there was a parallel conference of Non-Governmental Organizations open to anyone who could get a visa and housing. The NGO Forum was held from August 30 through September 8, at Huairou, 35 miles from Beijing. Each conference had its own official opening ceremonies and its own events. Together and separately the two conferences were the largest ever sponsored by the United Nations.
The Hauirou conference center was hastily cobbled together from a couple schools and surrounding buildings on the edge of a small town that were renamed for the occasion. Some new buildings were started but not completed in time for the NGO Forum. Many tents were erected to accommodate all the activities scheduled for over 30,000 members of the press and public. Despite problems with bad weather, insufficient housing, and some governmental repression, most of those attending the numerous workshops, exhibits, booths, demonstrations, dancing, speeches, speak-outs and other activities had a wonderful time.
The official UN Conference took place in more luxurious accommodations in central Beijing. Although it too had panels on varied topics, its primary task was to produce a Declaration and Platform for Action. The 130 page document was not written overnight; most of the language had been agreed on beforehand. Nonetheless, there were some acrimonious conflicts over words. Sex, specifically lesbian rights and abortion, was the hot topic. Sex created some strange alliances; Catholic countries and Islamic fundamentalists agreed that they didn't like a lot of the language in the final document.
When everyone went home what was left were the words. The Fourth World Conference forced the world's governments to write extensive reports on the status of women. It raised consciousness in international agencies about the importance of a "gender perspective," and it gave feminists all over the world ammunition for the battles they had yet to fight at home.
Photos of the Beijing '95 Womens Conference by Jo Freeman
Please click on thumbnails to view the complete image
The NGO Forum
|NGO Opening Ceremony|
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