Meet seeks to identify gender challenges, formulate solutions

Activists, lawyers, grassroot workers and UN Women gather in Delhi to review and take stock of gender equality and women's empowerment in the country

Ashwaq Masoodi
First Published12 Aug 2014, 01:09 AM IST
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by 189 countries, is the most effective and comprehensive policy framework for achieving gender equality. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint<br />
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by 189 countries, is the most effective and comprehensive policy framework for achieving gender equality. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: They called it the conference of commitment in 1995. Before heading to Beijing for the fourth world conference on women, thousands of women gathered in a hall at New Delhi’s Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and started chanting Hum Honge Kaamyaab (We shall overcome), some in Hindi and others in their local language.

There was hope that things will change and the voice of women will finally be heard. More than 500 delegates headed for Beijing that year with a single mission to bring gender equality to the forefront of the world’s priorities. When they returned, they were armed with charters, resolutions and action plans.

Twenty years later, women activists, women organizations, lawyers, grassroots workers and UN Women gathered in the national capital on Monday to review and take stock of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the country.

The Beijing conference, if not the reason for changing the gender dynamics in India, was a historic event that created mass awakening in the country like never before, NGOs claim.

“We could not entirely script change despite all these resolutions and charters. We still find ourselves rather on a roller-coaster ride from dowry deaths to systematic elimination of the female foetus, wilful neglect of the girl child, unabated domestic violence and now the spate of the most brutal crimes including honour killings and targeting minors and highly vulnerable girls. We may have succeeded in getting the legislation we wanted, but we have not succeeded in putting in place an ecosystem that is required to support that legislation for the people who need it,” said former additional solicitor general Indira Jaising, at the Beijing+20 India CSO (civil society organizations) national consultation, supported by UN Women.

Talking about the need to have 33% reservation for women in Parliament, Jaising said: “We do need political representation and a critical presence in decision-making bodies. It is significant because being in the decision-making table helps you to push the issues right to the top and impact communities. It’s not just about numbers or the quantum of representation, it is also about the quality and perspective that each one of them brings to the process. It is essential whatever representation we get must be leveraged, its efficacy proven time and time again.”

In the first day of the two-day consultation, most panellists said that there is still a long way to go and emphasized on the need to go beyond glossy, rhetorical government documents on gender equality. Dr. Ruth Manorama, one of the panellists, and president of the National Alliance of Women, said, “Government’s commitment is not seen. What they say is a lot of rhetoric. Women need to become a political power. We should become a force without which the government cannot move. We have to become a political lobby.”

The Beijing+20 India CSO national consultation is brought together by India’s key civil society organizations to discuss future actions, challenges and opportunities for women’s movements in the country. The consultation will contribute to major global processes, which will help deconstruct and strategize for more effective gender equality interventions in the near future.

“We have a strong normative framework of laws, but we need to focus on implementation. India remains a complex and a pivotal country for gender equality work, and meetings such as these help to acknowledge successes, identify challenges, and formulate effective solutions that can be implemented in India and beyond. The outputs of the India national consultation will be used to inform the Asia-Pacific regional Beijing+20 review and, subsequently, the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at New York in March 2015,” said Rebecca Tavares, representative, UN Women Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The Beijing conference was a major turning point for the global women’s movement and was the occasion of then US first lady Hillary Clinton’s declaration that “women’s rights are human rights”. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by 189 countries, is the most effective and comprehensive policy framework for achieving gender equality.

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First Published:12 Aug 2014, 01:09 AM IST
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