Reviews Women's Progress One Year After Beijing
by Jo Freeman
backs, October 1996.
September 9, one year after the Fourth World Conference on Women held
in Beijing China, the United Nations sponsored a commemorative celebration "to
honour the pioneers of the advancement of women, at the United Nations
and in the Non-Governmental Community."
day began with a Film Forum of excerpts from seven videos and TV shows
made about the largest UN conference ever held, including one on disabled
women, one in Spanish, and another on the Peace Train from Helsinki
It ended with a panel featuring speeches by UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali
and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. Other speakers
were Florence Butegwa, lawyer and human rights activist from Uganda, Judy Woodruff,
anchor and senior correspondent of CNN, Nafis Sadik, executive director of
the UN Population Fund and Carol Bellamy, executive director of the UN Children's
between, the International Women's Tribune Centre celebrated its twentieth
year at a luncheon. The IWTC was formed after the First UN women's
conference held in Mexico City in 1975 to encourage women's "full
participation in shaping a development process that is just, peaceful,
and sustainable." It acts as an information clearinghouse and
training center on issues of women and development.
the last year, conferences have been held all over the world to tell
women about the Fourth World Conference and to diffuse the message
of its Platform for Action. In some countries women have organized
to press their governments to fulfill their commitments; in others
they have worked to publicize the Platform.
U.S. gave its response before the Fourth World Conference even began,
when President Clinton announced the formation of the Interagency Council
on Women in August 1995. It's chair, Donna Shalala, told the recent
UN gathering that "For the last year, members of the Council have
reached deep into every Federal department and agency -- to uncover
new ways -- better ways -- of serving women and children."
she only described some in the Department she heads. They were: "insisting
that women are part of every clinical research trial"; "increasing
our commitment to breast cancer research"; "moving forward
to insure that all women have access to good reproductive health and
full reproductive freedom"; developing a "female microbicide
... to protect [women] and their families from the scourge of HIV and
AIDS"; "teaching young girls to say 'no' to tobacco, drugs,
and pre-marital sex and say 'yes' to their health, their education,
and their future." She did not identify which programs were a
response to the Beijing meeting and which were already underway before
the Platform was written.
review of global progress was released by WEDO, the Women's Environment
and Development Organization founded by Bella Abzug. Based on responses
from 51 countries and territories, compiled from surveys of governments
and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), WEDO concluded that the
world is making progress slowly, largely through changes that don't
cost any money.
identified some of these as: legal measures to penalize family violence
in Latin America, a bill to correct gender bias in property rights
in Nepal, parliamentary proposals to give women a third of the seats
in parliament and state legislative assemblies in India, equal pay
policies in some industrialized countries, and efforts to legalize
abortion in South Africa.
Sources for further information:
Beyond Promises: Governments in Motion: One Year After the Beijing Women's
Conference, Women's Environment and Development Organization, Sept. 1996,
87 pages. WEDO is at 355 Lexington Ave., 3rd floor, New York, NY 10017-6603;
212/973-0335; fax: 212/973-0335; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www: http://www/wedo.org.
The International Women's Tribune Centre publishes a quarterly newsletter and
its subsidiary, Women, Ink., publishes numerous books. They are at 777 United
Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017; 212/687-8633; fax: 212/661-2704; e-mail:
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Nations and the Advancement of Women 1945-1996. Order
Publication No. E.96.I.9 from UN Publications 2 UN Plaza, Room 853,
NY, NY 10017 or phone 212/963-8302/3.