21 Jul 2014
Bharati Sadasivam, Gender Practice Team Leader, UNDP Regional Centre, Istanbul
UN Women launches the year-long campaign, "Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!," to spark global dialogue and actions on women's right and gender equality. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
I was recently among a few thousand people at the public launch of a year-long UN Women campaign marking 20 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Women leaders, celebrities, officials and activists of all ages came together with musicians and performers in New York’s iconic Apollo Theater on 26 June to celebrate the landmark summit which made the slogan “women’s rights are human rights” universal.
In 1995, as a graduate student volunteering with the New York-based Women’s Environment and Development Organization, I went to Beijing, one of more than 30,000 women’s advocates in the NGO Forum in Huairou.
‘Beijing’ symbolized the moment when, as feminist leader Charlotte Bunch put it, “all issues came together. Crossing borders and boundaries, race, culture, class, sexual orientation, age, diversity was key to women’s success in Beijing.” Women’s work and tireless advocacy were in large part behind the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with its 12 critical areas of concern. To date, it is the most comprehensive bill of women’s rights that women have won by consensus.
Much has since changed for the world’s women and girls – in health, education, work, rights and opportunities. But celebrations of Beijing are tempered …