Church Rep Attends ‘Beijing + 15’ on Status of Women

The following report from Doris Abdullah, Church of the Brethren representative to the United Nations, reports her experience at the 54th Commission on the Status of Women:

So exactly what was the 54th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women from March 1-12 at the United Nations in New York all about anyway? Was it to assess the status of women 15 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (held in 1995), or was it a celebration for the world’s women to embrace their sisterhood as one with the common goal of addressing discrimination and claiming our bodies as our own?

All the human rights violations against women–either expressed in outright violence, persistent harsh poverty, lack of education and training, poor health, lack of representation or participation in government or the economy–all are wrapped up in continual discrimination against women and the girl child, and a lack of control over our own bodies. I would say that the two weeks explored all the above and gave the world’s women a grand look at themselves and these sometimes explosive and misunderstood subjects with mutual respect and decorum.

A wealth of talents, ingenuity in the face of violence, and remarkably educated women who have achieved extraordinary things…. I headed for the panel discussions at the Salvation Army, universities, hotels, and the Church Center at the UN, so that I could be a little closer to the speakers and hear them in a smaller setting. These parallel events were packed with brainstorming ideas from women group founders, the global support network of women, and those sharing common interests. At these events, one could caucus with representatives from any place on the globe.

The five regional group speakers came from Argentina, on behalf of MERCOSUR and Associated States; Chile, on behalf of the Rio Group; Equatorial Guinea, on behalf of the African Group; Samoa, on the behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum; and Yemen, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

While I have not tried to picked a best speech from such a variety of great presentations, I do think that Louise Croot, president of the NGO International Federation of University Women, spoke six words that represent what the whole two weeks tried to convey: “Human rights are also women’s rights.”

And I would add, these rights should be respected by all governments and their institutions within societies. A quotation from the Beijing Platform for Action: “Equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and is also a necessary and fundamental prerequisite for equality, development, and peace.”

— Doris Abdullah is co-chair of the NGO Human Rights Sub-Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. She notes that most panel discussions and speeches given during the “Beijing + 15” meeting are available at .

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