Fifteen years ago, the U.N. held the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Representatives from 189 countries adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action unanimously which identified what they viewed as major obstacles to gender equality.
This year the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women held a two-week meeting to review what countries had done to implement this landmark declaration. At the end of the meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks reminding us that, while we have made real progress over the last 15 years, our work is not yet finished.
Clinton said, "Women are still the majority of the world's poor, the uneducated, the unhealthy, the unfed.” "In too many places, women are treated not as full and equal human beings with their own rights and aspirations, but as lesser creatures."
Clinton stressed that one important step in the fight for women’s equality will be including women in key leadership roles. And while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed women to some key positions, his announcement of the members of a new U.N. climate change group last week was shocking because, of the 19 members, there was not a single woman.
A joint post by Elizabeth Becker, of Oxfam America, and Suzanne Ehlers, of Population Action International, pointed out that, while it does not include women, it “includes equal representation between industrialized countries and developing countries.”
An update on Dot Earth, announced that France has since replaced their representative with a woman, Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister. This is a great decision, but the gender balance is still severely skewed.
The absence of women is concerning. As a gender, global issues can affect us in a very different, but no less significant, way than they do men. Accordingly, it is critical that we have a voice in policymaking, so that important decisions will consider and reflect our unique experiences.