March 14, 2005
By Linda Bloom*
YORK (UMNS)—Ten years after a landmark conference in Beijing, China,
world governments have reaffirmed their commitment to the advancement of
80 ministers and 1,800 delegates from 165 members states, as well as
seven first ladies, participated in the 10-year review of the result of
that conference—the Beijing Platform for Action—during the Feb. 28-March
11 Commission on the Status of Women meeting at the United Nations.
with them were more than 2,600 nongovernmental representatives,
including United Methodists and Methodists who were part of a 75-member
coalition called Ecumenical Women 2000. In addition to formal sessions
and panel discussions, the 12-day meeting included an array of
presentations, discussions and other events at the Church Center for the
United Nations and other locations.
Religious representatives have been part of the Commission on the Status
of Women almost since the meetings began 49 years ago, according to Mia
Adjali, executive secretary for global concerns for the Women’s
Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
year’s meeting was particularly important, she said, “to make visible
the Beijing Platform for Action” and “to evaluate whether there has been
number of governments—along with nongovernmental organizations in those
countries—have completed questionnaires about implementation. The
assessment of those actions “shows us how much more we have to do,”
a coalition of denominations and ecumenical organizations, Ecumenical
Women 2000 considered those assessments from the perspective of religion
and human rights.
improvements have occurred in areas such as educating girls, reforming
discriminatory laws and the economic advancement and political
participation of women, governments need to do more, participants in the
a statement delivered March 8 in the U.N. General Assembly Hall,
Ecumenical Women 2000 supported the political declaration adopted
unanimously several days earlier by the Commission on the Status of
Women, reaffirming the Beijing Platform for Action and calling for its
full and immediate implementation.
declaration initially had been stalled when the U.S. delegation tried
to insert an anti-abortion amendment. The amendment later was dropped.
Rev. Liberato Bautista and Linda Bales, U.N.-related staff of the
United Methodist Board of Church and Society, were among those urging
the U.S. delegation to reconsider the amendment.
beauty of the Beijing Platform for Action is that it affirms each
nation’s national legislative processes, including the pursuit and
promotion of the Beijing Platform,” they wrote. “This includes all that
the platform says about the abortion issue: ‘Any measures or changes
related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at
the national or local level according to the national legislative
its statement, Ecumenical Women 2000 pointed out that 10 years after
Beijing, “women and girls around the world continue to suffer much of
the burden of war, poverty, all forms of violence and discrimination,
and economic injustice. In the last 10 years, increased militarization,
trafficking in persons, the rise of all forms of fundamentalisms,
negative effects of globalization and neo-liberal economic policies have
had a disproportionate harmful impact on women and girls.”
Some of the Ecumenical Women participants, such as Rosemary Wass,
president of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church
Women, were at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
been good to be part of Ecumenical Women 2000 because it puts (the
issues) into a broader context,” Wass said. Concerns raised by the
Beijing Platform for Action will be carried through in Bible studies and
workshops at the federation’s 2006 assembly in Korea, she added.
point of progress since Beijing, she believes, “is a bigger acceptance
of women in leadership in many countries.” An issue that needs to be
addressed more comprehensively, according to Wass, is violence against
member of the federation’s team, Greetje Van de Veer, was a first-time
participant. She cited her connections with other participants as “one
of the reasons why you have to be here.”
native of the Netherlands who has lived in Italy for many years and is
active in the Methodist Church in Italy, Van de Veer is particularly
concerned about issues of human rights. “The biggest problem is the
problem of poverty,” she added.
Harvey, a Women’s Division director who works at Lancaster Seminary in
Pennsylvania, was attending her third meeting of the Commission on the
Status of Women. “There’s a whole lot of networking that goes on,” she
Harvey was looking for insight on how nongovernmental organizations can work together to move the Beijing goals forward.
some countries have adopted principles of equality into their
constitutions, “the challenge is to transfer the constitution into
actual laws,” said Roseangela Oliveira, a United Methodist regional
missionary for Latin America.
Sellu, a United Methodist regional missionary for East Africa, said
African governments that have not done so must be lobbied “to walk the
talk and fully implement the Beijing Platform for Action in its
addition to fully implementing the platform for action, the Ecumenical
Women’s statement called upon U.N. member states to ensure full
participation of women in decision-making; guarantee women’s health care
and reproductive rights; dedicate sufficient resources to address
poverty and unemployment; and reduce military expenditures, reallocating
those resources to social and economic development, poverty
alleviation, promotion of human security and the advancement of women.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.