Governments worldwide had adopted a piecemeal and
incremental approach to implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action that
could not achieve the economic, social and political transformation underlying
the Platform's promises and vision. As a result, many women in all regions of
the world were actually worse off now than they were ten years ago, June Zeitlin, Executive Director, Women's Environment and
Development Organization (WEDO) told correspondents this morning during a
Headquarters press conference.
The press conference, sponsored by
There was still some cause for
celebration, Ms. Zeitlin continued, as women
everywhere had used the Platform to push governments into action, passing
legislation and raising public awareness to promote women's human rights, peace
and sustainable development. However, there were powerful trends -- growing
poverty, inequality, growing militarization and fundamentalist opposition to
women's rights -- which were harming millions of women. Governments were not
forcefully challenging resource constraints and gender stereotypes and failed
to mobilize the political will and leadership to carry out commitments made.
There were both successes and
challenges on many of the critical issues identified in the Beijing Platform,
she continued. The United Nations Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention, for
instance, had been ratified by 170 countries, up from 146 a decade ago, but the
Chair, Asia-Pacific Women's Watch, said that in her region, the impact of
poverty was seen strongly in the increase of trafficking in women. Because of
poverty, women were more susceptible to the lure of jobs abroad, making them
easy victims for traffickers. Living conditions of women locally must be
improved, and action taken internationally to protect women against that
Another issue affecting women in her
region was the "gender-blindness" of the response to natural
disasters, she said. Women-survivors of the 26 December tsunami had become
victim to rape and violence. Moreover, reconstruction efforts were
male-oriented, with, for instance, totally inadequate kitchens designed by males
who probably had never seen a kitchen.
Chair, Women, Law, and Development Africa, said
Moreover, women were being attacked by men who were HIV-positive, which was the same thing as a direct murder.
Chief Researcher, Social Watch,
Women still lagged far behind in
playing an equal role in decisions about development, despite their fundamental
contribution to the economy and social and political life. For women, the
recent economic crisis had meant a greater struggle for survival and less time
for political mobilization. Moreover, the region had some of the greatest
income disparities in the world, with women's income representing only 50 per
cent of men's income.
Chair, Caribbean Wave, said that in her region there was a stiff struggle for
the women's movement and for women's livelihoods, because of economic
circumstances. The region was very diverse, a fact that was often forgotten.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments had not held up to their commitments.
Answering a correspondent's
question, Ms. Zeitlin said no government input had
been sought for the report. It had been compiled in collaboration with regional
and subregional networks and represented the voices
of women. As the report would be launched in the regions, however, governments
would have an opportunity to respond. The United Nations report was exclusively
a document of governments assessing Platform implementation.
Asked what the United Nations should
do, as the main critique seemed to be the speed of implementation, Ms. Zeitlin said it was not only speed that needed to be
addressed, but also the scope. Although many changes had been
made at the policy and legislative level, those changes had not really led to
significant changes in women's lives on the ground. It was a matter of
moving beyond laws in dedicating resources and changing the mindsets of people
in power. The United Nations should translate words into action. Some steps
that could be taken, in terms of the Convention and women's representation, did
not require money, just leadership.
In response to a question about the
impact of the United States attempts to insert an amendment on the Beijing and
Beijing +5 Platforms of Action, Ms. Mutukwa said that
amendment was a "destructive distraction".
The Platforms should be made
stronger and better, things should not be taken away from it. The right to
abortion was just one aspect of reproductive rights. To focus just on that was
not productive. Ms. Zeitlin added that 170
non-governmental organizations had signed a statement calling on the
Asked about progress per region, Ms.
Mutukwa said different regions had made progress in
different areas. Total progress made, however, had not been sufficient to
change the lives of women. Ms. Licuanan said that for
the Asian-Pacific region, progress had been made in strengthening institutional
mechanisms. All countries had focal points for women, albeit that they were
weak and without sufficient resources. There had been legislation on such
issues as violence against women and human rights for women. The issue of
HIV/AIDS could now be openly discussed in government circles. Gender indicators
had improved and women's organizations had become better organized and more
In closing remarks, Ms. Zeitlin said that governments were asked to change their
Governments should: reaffirm unequivocally the Beijing Platform for action today; announce before the end of the conference what three steps they would take to translate their commitments under the Platform into action; and tell the world, during the "Millennium +5" summit, how they had implemented those three actions. A proposal regarding the three steps would be submitted to the plenary when the non-governmental organizations would get an opportunity to speak.