Subject: [fem-women2000 382] At Beijing+5
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Tue, 13 Jun 2000 06:45:35 -0500
Seq: 382

Forwarded by lalamaziwa <>
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 From: "liz" <>
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 Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 17:26:29 +0200
 Subject: [B5NGONEWS] At Beijing+5

Global Women's Media Team/Electronic News Bulletin
distributed by Isis International-Manila
At Beijing+5
By Kavitha Koshy*

New York, June 5, 2000

We sit in the cafeteria at the United Nations, New York, having lunch
together. Olayinka is from Sierra Leone and Carol is an American. Speaking
about her war-torn country, Olayinka says, "We women are caught in the
crossfire, our young daughters raped." Carol, who works with an advocacy
group, also has stories to tell of increasing violence in her society. We
all agree the world we live in is an unsafe place for women. And yet we
have travelled half across the globe, to share our experiences and,
perhaps, create a new society.

As the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) gets
underway on June 5, this part of New York wears a festive look. Official
delegates in formal attire rub shoulders with the colourful NGO women from
all over the world. The New York Police Department is out in force,
directing traffic, trying to keep order among the thousands lined up in
long queues, five abreast, waiting for a pass to get in.

The Beijing+5, as this special session is popularly called, is kicked off
by the expected slew of speeches and declarations of intent. The Secretary
General of the UN, Kofi Annan, spoke of the new challenges facing the world
like trafficking in women and children which he called "an outrage dating
back to biblical times (that) has now become a worldwide plague". He added,
"In economic terms, the gender divide is still widening. Women earn less,
are more often unemployed and generally are poorer than men. Women's work
is still largely part-time, informal, unregulated and unstable. The fact
that they have productive as well as reproductive roles is still all too
rarely recognized."

The start of the official conference has suddenly changed the mood and tone
of the activities going on in the UN building. The whole of the last week,
hectic parleys were going on between government representatives to arrive
at a consensus document which the conference can ratify.

Meanwhile, on a different level, NGO meetings were also being held. The
official NGO working session held on June 3, in conference room no.4 was a
total contrast to the formal opening session today. NGO groups from Africa,
the Asia/Pacific, North America/Europe, Latin America/ Caribbean and
Western Asia presented their update on the post -Beijing developments.

The African team set the ball rolling. Joanna Foster from the Women in Law
and Development in Africa, spoke of how much had changed and yet nothing
had changed. She illustrated this eloquently with the story of a woman who
was raped and filed a case for compensation. She managed to win but,
ironically, the presiding judge insisted on paying the money to her
husband. What is the use, asked Foster, of all these policies and
programmes our governments design when deep down, embedded in our psyche is
a patriarchal mindset? What do we mean by progress if we are "still beaten
in the morning and still beaten at night".

  The presentations from other regions that followed reiterated the same
points: Social biases and religious and cultural practices ensure women's
subservience. Globalization has adversely affected women all over the
world, be it retrenchment in Canada or its effect on local markets in Asia.
The representation of women in legislative bodies continues to be abysmal.
Trafficking in women has increased. The coordination between governments
and NGOs remains poor.

Almost everyone who spoke at the session referred to the way in which
policymakers continue to ignore the reality of women's lives. Their problem
seems to be one of a lack of political will when it comes to women's

  The Asia/Pacific presentation by Pam Rajput and other members summed up
what women's groups all over the world are feeling. Choosing to make their
point graphically, the women waved a black sari symbolizing the violence,
blood and tears that make up a women's life today; suddenly, with the wave
of a magic wand, the somber dark fabric gave way to a bright, multi-hued
banner of life and laughter, a harbinger of what the future holds for
womankind. As one of the members of the group explained, women can weave
together with their laughter and strength a better life. "United we stand
for justice, peace, harmony and change," chorused the whole auditorium,
giving a standing ovation to the lively presentation.

* Kavitha Koshy is a member of the Global Women's Media Team (GWMT) for the
UN General Assembly Session to Review the Beijing Platform for Action.  The
team is  composed of NGO women and women journalists from Asia-Pacific,
Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. The GWMT is coordinated by Isis
International-Manila and generously supported by UNIFEM-East and Southeast
Asia, UNIFEM-South Asia, Canadian International Development
Agency-Southeast Asia Gender Equity Programme, UNDP-Latin America and the
Caribbean, UNDP-Mongolia, British High Commission in Vanuatu, Foundation
for Sustainable Society, Inc; National Centre for Cooperation in
Development (NCOS-Pilipinas), World Council of  Churches, and WomenAction.

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