20 Years Later: How the Beijing World Conference on Women Changed My Life

20 Years Later: How the Beijing World Conference on Women Changed My Life

Yiping Cai attended the NGO Forum of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing as a young journalist and youth participant. Today at the age of 43, she lives in Beijing, China, and is an Executive Committee member of the international feminist network DAWN (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era) as well as a member of UN Women's Asia-Pacific Regional Civil Society Advisory Group.

Cross posted from UN Women

You can just imagine a young Chinese grad at Beijing Conference with little idea what it’s all about. But it was an eye-opener for me. It opened so many roads and catalyzed the Chinese women’s movement.

Yiping Cai
Photo courtesy of Yiping Cai

I was a journalist at the time with China Women’s News, a daily newspaper. Six months later, we created our own NGO inspired by the women we met at the NGO Forum to look at gender stereotyping of women in the media and to improve women’s participation in the media profession.

What have we achieved?

I would say awareness-raising. We can’t make anything happen without changing your own concept of what it means to be a woman. Policymakers too have to recognize how important gender equality is to development. Women’s rights, gender mainstreaming … these concepts were all introduced at the Beijing Conference and NGO Forum. With this increased awareness we can identify more gaps and areas where we haven’t achieved equality. We can better mobilize and work together on the common understanding of women’s rights.

We have many achievements, which makes me optimistic. In some areas, we are much better off, like education, maternal mortality; but in others, there is less progress and imbalance of achievement, such as political participation, recognizing women’s rights as human rights – we haven’t got there. Such a simple thing!

Even at the recent Commission on the Status of Women, which I attended in March 2014 in New York, some Member States didn’t want to include human rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the outcome document. We can’t separate these rights.

Youth and looking forward

Frankly speaking, as a youth delegate 19 years ago, I didn’t think of the role young people can play. Now I see that young women can make a big difference. I have a lot of hope. Today youth are facing a lot of old and new challenges, some of which have gotten worse. We haven’t really addressed inequality or transformative and structural change. That’s what we still need. The Beijing agenda is all still very valid.

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