The first day is less of a hustle than it has been before. Everything is a little more familiar and it helps that I don’t have to queue up to get my pass.
The conference itself is organized into three types of events:
The official meetings, of which we, as NGO delegates have access to live webcast viewings. Side events organized by country delegations and organizations such as UNWomen, World Bank etc and lastly, parallel events that are organized by NGO partners. All events have certain themes – mostly responding to how far we have come since Beijing and how far we need to go - there is never enough time to go to everything so you choose a few. Last time I mostly attended parallel events because I wanted to explore, but this year I’ve been trying to learn learn learn so I’m focusing more on region; asia pacific (trying to make Australia home here!) and specifically on how we go forward from here. That is where I want to plug in. Be a part of the solution.
On the first day after looking through all the events of the day I decided I wanted in on the official meetings so I decided to sit through the opening session.
Snippets from the Opening Session;
The conference is a celebration of all that has happened to progress gender equality – “Since the Beijing Conference, more girls have attained more access to more education than ever before. Maternal mortality has been almost halved. More women are leading businesses, governments and global organizations” (Secretary General Ban) but we acknowledge that we are not there yet. Therefore, the way forward is to commit to continuing with the struggle. The aim here is, “in 2030 we want to be able to talk about a world that has achieved gender equality” said, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (who is officially my hero and inspiration) and it is not just women who must do this, men must partner with them. “Men and boys are vital in ending unequal pay, saying no to marrying children, and fighting global epidemic of violence against women. It's important to promote “positive masculinity,” she said.
Listen to her whole speech here.
"Women bear the burden and pay the price but they are not just the victims. They are agents of change. They are the best drivers of hope, buffer against the radicalization of the youth."
"Truly powerful men are those who believe in and work to empower women"
There are still 5 countries where no women are in parliament, 8 countries where no women are cabinet members.
"We must not leave any woman behind. There needs to be a 50:50 ratio of men and women in all spheres by 2030 because if we do not allow the 50 percent of our population to realize their potential we cannot advance."
"Too often, leaders have used women to advance their own power. Now we must use our power to advance women."
Ban Ki Moon , Secretary General UN
"Gender dimension begins in our heads"
Pascale Boistard, French Minister
"We must resolve to finish the unfinished business of the Beijing conference."
Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP
Read her full speech here.
Lydia Alpizar, ED at AWID was insistent that 20 years later we cannot go back to Beijing. She stated that the political text of the Beijing Platform is weak and needs changing. We, as women deserve better and all people must put aside their religious, gender and political bias to recognize and advance gender justice. In the famous words of Hillary Clinton again and again; human rights are womens rights and womens rights are human rights, first coined at the Beijing Conference in 1995.
She stressed that:
We must allocate financial resources to this cause to implement programs to make gender quality a priority.
We must ensure the centrality of Human rights in all aspects of governance.
There must be no trade-off of sexual rights in government tradeoffs.
We must not let culture and tradition be the basis for delay, or justification of perpetuating gender inequality.
We must not let the call to religion form the basis for violating and discriminating against the rights of women.
We must make the state accountability essential to further gender justice.
We must integrate language the protects Women HR Defenders which was previously removed from the declaration.
Our message must be to refuse to be ignored, and minimized.
Why? because the time is now, the fight continues.
THE WAY FORWARD...
The Beijing Review tells us:
- We need action and renewed political commitment
- We must look beyond averages
- Human rights are interdependent and indivisible
- We must address the mindset that perpetuates inequality and violence
So, on September 15th 1995 at 4:45am when the final consensus was reached on the Beijing Platform, I am told, the air had a euphoria in it. There were 50,00 people who attended the conference at the NGO forum. As I take a moment to sit back, and witness all of this, I know, in 15 years – at the time of 2030, I too will look back to today, and say, wow, that was also a historic moment.
The road is long ahead, but I know I want to be a part of it. Not on the sidelines. At the forefront. Here’s to finding the ways in which to be involved, one fight at a time.
Empowering women, empowers nations. This is an investment in our planets well being.