In 1994, a group of over 30 women began to strategize about attending the 4th World Conference on Women to be held the following September, in Beijing, China. Under the leadership of Muriel Smith and others, we met regularly, for about a year, discussing the different topics that would form the Beijing Platform for Action. We talked about the issues, and learned from women who had attended some, if not all, of the three previous World Conferences on Women.
I was fortunate to be an official delegate, and attended both the NGO events, held in Hairou, just outside of Beijing and the formal UN meetings in Beijing. The issue I worked on was the Girl Child, with the International Federation of University Women. We advocated for inclusion of sections dealing with Sexual and Reproductive Rights, and advocating for eliminating harmful cultural practises (FGM), and early marriage. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with global women, who were fighting hard to push for the rights of girls. Child marriage was very much an issue as was discrimination against girls in food allocation. The most debate was over the section regarding “education and service needs of adolescents to enable them to deal in a responsible way their sexuality, taking into account the rights of the child to access information, privacy, confidentiality, informed consent …;.”.
Following the 4thWorld Conference, Manitoba women came home, very much inspired to continue working on the 12 Critical Areas of Concern, as well as continuing the relationships developed during the Conference. UNPAC (The United Nations Platform for Action) was formed when we returned, and did so much in educating and taking action, based on what we learned from the Conference. The roots of IIWR-MB include many of these women and earlier organizations.
The Beijing Conference was an amazing experience in so many ways, to hear from the women themselves, to march, to learn, to stand outside in the rain, to not give up, and to push for action. The upcoming Equality Forum is an important part of the Anniversary, as it supports the voices of youth. The energy and views of young women are essential now in leading the world forward and realizing gender equality by 2030.
By Mary Scott