Beijing+20 - The Vision of the Socialist International Women
Geneva, Switzerland, 15 and 16 December 2014
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPA-1995), which was presented at the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015. This declaration marked an unprecedented leap forward for the rights of women, with 17,000 participants and 30,000 activists from around the world congregating to discuss the issues and challenges women face on a daily basis and formulate mechanisms and strategies for moving forward to the ultimate goal of achieving gender equality. The Beijing process animated, inspired and connected women’s movements on a global scale and provided worldwide visibility of a movement of women united in their vision and determination to create gender equality and promote the rights of women. The Beijing Platform for Action is a comprehensive framework for change and essentially a bill of rights for women which builds on and expands into action the principles outlined in the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Beijing Platform for Action is as much a source of inspiration and definitive resource for guidance now as it was 20 years ago.
Beijing+20 will be the main focus of the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59/Beijing+20) where representatives of member states, UN entities and United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) accredited NGO’s, including Socialist International Women, will be in attendance. This will be an occasion to celebrate and reflect on the many significant achievements and strides forward for the rights of women over the last 20 years. It will also be an opportunity for all participants and Socialist International Women to reconnect and recommit to the vision and principles of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and to mobilise supporters and the general public to take action.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action highlights 12 critical areas for change. These areas include 3 which are central to the Socialist International Women’s vision of global gender equality to create a world that is just and equal for all. These critical areas are: 1. Eradication of violence against women. 2. Eradication of poverty. 3. Education and training to women and girls. Socialist International Women fully believes that these are fundamental to the creation of positive change for women and considers it essential in promoting women’s ability to participate in the development, monitoring and progress of goals. Socialist International Women believes that by focusing on these 3 areas for urgent action all other goals can be more easily reached at a later stage.
Socialist International Women emphasises the achievements that have been made since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was presented. Alongside the initiatives and actions outlined in E/RES/1990/15, UN General Assembly Resolution 66/130 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) many positive changes have been made. We are now at a moment where two thirds of countries have outlawed domestic violence and 52 countries have explicitly made rape within marriage a crime. Today the chances that girls will be genitally mutilated are one third lower than they were 30 years ago. The number of girls who are receiving at least primary level education has increased and, though gradually, continues to do so. The number of people living in extreme poverty has also decreased dramatically in the past three decades, from half the population in the developing world living on less than $1.25 in 1981, to 21 percent in 2010. These and many other changes are improving the daily lives of millions of women worldwide as well as enhancing their prospects of healthier, happier and more productive futures.
There is still much more work to be done and many critical issues still remain to be resolved which subjugate, harm and humiliate women. For example, there are almost 19 million victims exploited by private individuals or enterprises and of those exploited, 4.5 million people around the world have been victims of forced sexual exploitation; 98% of these are women and girls. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence at some point in her life. The World Health Organisation has declared that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions. Many women and girls are excluded from education or taking jobs, with laws in place in 15 countries where husbands can object to their wives working or accepting jobs. There are still more than 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty and many of the world's poorest people are women who must, as the primary family caretakers and producers of food, shoulder the burden of providing for their families. Yet some 75 percent of the world's women cannot get bank loans because they have unpaid or insecure jobs and are not entitled to property ownership, thus denying the economic support for women to emerge out of poverty. There remain millions of women living with physical and sexual violence, in poverty and suppression in a variety of forms who still desperately need urgent action for change.
Socialist International Women believes the active support and involvement of women’s groups and local and national governments are essential to accelerating change. The UN Women’s Safe Cities Initiative and the Safe Schools Initiative launched at the World Economic Forum in Nigeria in response to the kidnapping of 200 girls are two examples of how governments can work in partnership with the UN and local women’s groups to speed up responses to challenges.
Involvement of the wider general public is also essential and particularly the involvement of men, as these are not just issues for women, these are human rights issues. Violence towards women and attitudes which denigrate and subjugate women are learned behaviours which can be changed. Socialist International Women welcomes movements such as the HeForShe Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality which encourages men to commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.
Socialist International Women urges all governments, member parties of Socialist International, the UN and NGO’s to recommit to the framework and measures within the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and ensure urgent action on critical areas for change.
Socialist International Women calls on all stakeholders to take action to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by:
supporting the integration of BPA-1995 into local and national frameworks and legislation
creating co-operative partnerships with government, NGO and women’s groups to promote the visions and goals of BPA-1995
promoting the BPA-1995 agenda within political party policies and campaigns
establishing local measurement and evaluation frameworks to enable review of progress on critical issues
encouraging both genders to engage with the BPA-1995 agenda to promote and nurture an environment and rhetoric of gender equality
fulfilling the Beijing commitments to all interconnected and universal human rights and systematic implementation of a women’s right approach (taken from Geneva NGO Forum On Beijing+20EC Review).