ONE YEAR AGO, some 40,000 women gathered in Beijing in the largest meeting ever convened to discuss the status, roles and prospects for women and girls around the world. The fourth U.N. Conference on Women produced an ambitious Platform for Action. But has it made any real difference in the lives of women?
A number of women's groups are monitoring progress, or lack of it. After only one year the results, not surprisingly, are mixed.
A number of countries have established commissions to follow up on conference recommendations, but not all of them carry any authority or have enough funding. One exception is South Africa, where an office concerned with the status of women is being established within the presidency. Some countries, including Norway, Denmark, Japan and the Netherlands, are setting serious agendas for achieving equality between the sexes. And Norway has significantly increased its allocations for aid to women in developing nations.
Colombia and Malaysia have recently enacted laws to prevent family violence. Peru is considering tightening laws on domestic violence. Puerto Rico has allocated $1.8 million to improve the island's legal, psychological and housing services for battered women.
Meanwhile, India is considering expanding a law that gives women 33 percent of seats in local governments to legislative bodies at the state and national level. In Cameroon, a campaign to increase women officeholders has doubled the number of women mayors, from 400 to 800 since the Beijing meeting. A women's lobbying group in Zaire has recruited 300 women who want to run for political office. There are discouraging signs as well, such as the hostility directed toward a young woman who succeeded her father as chief of a southern province in Zimbabwe.
One year later, women still face barriers to social, political and economic equality. But clearly, the spirit of the Beijing conference is alive in many parts of the world.
$ Pub date: 9/12/96