At the historic Apollo Theatre in New York, UN Women last week launched a year-long campaign to spark global dialogue and actions on women’s rights and gender equality.
The Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It! campaign commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing which set a path-breaking agenda on women’s rights in 1995.
In the packed theatre and to thunderous applause, UN officials, feminist activists, celebrities and performers took the stage and brought the audience to their feet as they raised their voices in support of the UN Women campaign, which aims to celebrate the achievements of the last 20 years, while underlining the gaps that remain across the world in advancing the women’s agenda.
“Our goal is to rekindle the spirit of Beijing to re-energize all of us in our work to advance women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Rousing the crowds, she added “the vision laid out in Beijing, with 12 critical areas of concern for women, still resonates deeply around the world. It is still unfinished business.”
Urging participation from all corners of the world and society, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson emphasized the need to fulfil the Beijing promise. “The essence of the Beijing vision is that equality for women and girls, equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation will build a better world for us all … Remember: nobody can do everything – but everybody can do something. Let’s go to work!”
The Beijing+20 campaign was kicked off online in May, and has already galvanized a global audience of 40 million, with media, civil society organizations and individuals actively engaged in a re-energized conversation.
Legendary feminist activist Gloria Steinem got a standing ovation as she reminded the audience how women’s rights underpinned every society: “The human race is like a bird with two wings, and if one wing is broken, no one can fly.”
Punctuated by compelling performances by internationally renowned young women’s theatre and dance troupe Girl Be Heard, ensemble musicians’ group Women of the World, Grammy award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin, and award-winning poet-actor Carlos Andrés Gómez, the evening brought together over 1,200 people from the UN, civil society, media, and the private sector.
At the unique event which brought the UN into the heart of the city and community, Maya Wiley, Consul to the Mayor of New York, underlined a critical pre-requisite, saying: “For our city to rise and prosper, 54 per cent of its population cannot be marginalized. We must stand up. Women need access to quality childcare and flexible working. They need support so they can realize their ambitions and provide for their families.”
As UN Member States define a new global development framework by 2015, the year-long Beijing+20 campaign aims to ignite global discourse and renew political commitment to accelerate implementation of the comprehensive affirmation of women’s rights and empowerment adopted in 1995 by 189 governments, which remains only partially fulfilled. Major events in all regions of the world as well as online debates on issues ranging from human rights to climate change and economy will review the gains made and the gaps that remain, identifying mechanisms to accelerate real and transformative change in women’s lives.
“If you involve and include women you will have a much better society and you will also have equality, peace and prosperity,” said Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide, at the event.
“Gender Equality is not Mission Impossible,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka told the crowd, “it is the mission for our time!”
Source: UN Women