Bella Abzug Addresses Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing
September 12, 1995
Bella Abzug's plenary address to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing on September 12, 1995 set a tone of international cooperation and commitment that helped define the conference and its influential legacy.
After a historic career as a pioneering U.S. Congresswoman and activist, Abzug approached Beijing as a symbolic moment of feminist possibility. A long-time advocate for women's equality as well as human rights, she insisted on taking part in the Beijing conference despite illness and her confinement to a wheelchair.
The conference focused primarily on probing the living conditions for women including women's health, education, and economic status. Success in defusing the tensions over Zionism that had marked previous United Nations women's conferences facilitated constructive dialogue among the 7,000 delegates. The Beijing conference managed to synthesize numerous conflicting nationalistic feminist approaches into an international human rights feminist vision, offering resolutions that have continued to define national agendas for changing women's lives around the world.
In her address Abzug stated that, "Imperfect though it may be, the Beijing Platform for Action is the strongest statement of consensus on women's equality, empowerment and justice ever produced by governments. The Beijing Platform is a consolidation of the previous UN conference agreements in the unique context of seeing it through women's eyes.... We are bringing women into politics to change the nature of politics, to change the vision, to change the institutions. Women are not wedded to the policies of the past."
To learn more about Bella Abzug, visit Women of Valor and Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
See also: This Week in History for November 2, 1970 Bella Abzug elected to Congress and November 18, 1977 Bella Abzug convenes National Women's Conference in Houston; In Focus Jewish Women in Politics; Jewish Women and GLBT Pride; Go & Learn Primary Sources and Lesson Plans Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, leadership, and identity and Women Protesting Nuclear Weapons Testing: Bella Abzug with Women Strike for Peace, 1961; On Jewesses with Attitude What Would Bella Do?, The Lessons of Women's Equality Day, Jewish Women Politicians: Progressively Passionate?, Happy International Women's Day, and A Victory in the fight to make hate crimes history; Bella Abzug poster
Sources: http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/abzug; gos.sbc.edu/a/abzug.html; http://www.jofreeman.com/womenyear/beijingreport.htm; feminist.org/news; Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution, jwa.org/feminism.