In 1995, leaders from 189 nations came together in Beijing and adopted the most thorough platform for action on women’s rights and gender equality ever produced. This policy agenda, known as the Beijing Platform for Action, remains a cornerstone of the global women’s movement and set in motion policies and programs that forever changed the lives of millions of women and girls around the world.
Yet, the full promise of Beijing remains out of reach for far too many women and girls. Consider the facts:
- Women make up 70 percent of the world’s poor;
- 1,600 women die per day from preventable complications during childbirth;
- approximately 47,000 women and girls die every year from the complications of unsafe abortion;
- 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married before they turn 18;
- 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced intimate partner violence or sexual violence, and in some countries, nearly 70 percent of women have experienced violence in their lifetime.
Gender inequality cannot be written off as only a problem of the developing world. Women do not receive equal pay for equal work in virtually any country, and hold only 21.8 percent of the world’s parliamentary seats.
The 20th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women provides an opportunity for governments to take a close look at the status of women in their countries. Regional intergovernmental meetings will take place in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Asia as part of the official Beijing +20 Review. The outcomes of these regional meetings will feed into the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015.
Women’s rights advocates will be out in force to hold their governments accountable and ensure that these reviews address the systemic barriers that have blocked progress on women’s rights for far too long. This month, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) is mobilizing activists to attend the African regional conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (November 11-14) and the Asian and Pacific regional conference in Bangkok, Thailand (November 17-20). In advance of both meetings, IWHC is holding Advocacy in Practice workshops to give young feminists the tools and mentorship they need to be able to influence government negotiations.
The world is certainly a different place than it was in 1995. Government leaders increasingly understand that promoting the health and rights of women and girls is the key to sustainable development, economic growth, and peace and security. The Beijing +20 Review and the UN negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda could make 2015 a breakthrough moment for women and girls. IWHC will be there to make sure that this time, we leave no women or girl behind.