To date there have been four Women’s World Conferences convened by the UN. The first in Mexico City (International Women’s Year, (1975), the second in Copenhagen (1980) the third in Nairobi (1985). The fourth event convened in Beijing in September 1995 was “The Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace”. This is more usually known in the trade as the Beijing Conference
The Conference was attended by 189 Governments and more than 5,000 representatives from 2,100 non-governmental organizations. Notable among those present were Hillary Clinton and Jane Fonda & their pictures are still up, where you will also find the full texts of the conference outcomes, namely the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The principal themes were the advancement and empowerment of women in relation to women’s human rights, women and poverty, women and decision-making, the girl-child, violence against women, and other areas of concern. The overriding message of the Fourth World Conference on Women was that the issues addressed in the Platform for Action are global and universal. Deeply entrenched attitudes and practices perpetuate inequality and discrimination against women, in public and private life, in all parts of the world. Accordingly, implementation requires changes in values, attitudes, practices and priorities at all levels.
The Conference signaled a clear commitment to international norms and standards of gender equality and indeed it is claimed that this was the first important public forum to speak about the complementarity between women and men, rather than focusing exclusively on women’s needs. The concept of ‘gender mainstreaming’ that is to say analyzing and addressing gender inequalities
at all levels and in all spheres of human endeavour was also elaborated in this forum.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with its 12 areas of ‘critical concern’ became a bible for gender and development actors, and indeed many countries subsequently produced National Programmes of Action/ National Plans of Action setting out their strategies and programmes for implementing the commitments made at Beijing.
Beijing Platform for Action: Strategic Objectives and Related Critical Areas of Concern:
The persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women. Inequalities and inadequacies in, and unequal access to education and training.
Inequalities and inadequacies in, and unequal access to health care and related services. Violence against women The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, including those living under foreign occupation. Inequality in economic structures and policies, in all forms of productive activities and in access to resources. Inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels.
Insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of women. Human rights of women.