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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."

Sources: 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.

Abzug Addressing the Plenary Meeting of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing
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"We argue generally that gender equality is a prerequisite and a precondition for social development....

"Unless we can really deal with all their concepts and show them where it's wrong to emphasize demographics and population control issues without regard to women's empowerment, without regard to reproductive rights, without regard to reproductive health, without regard to sexual rights and sexual health, without regard to raising the status of women, then we will have failed in educating to make a whole new turn-around in the social policy affecting population and development."


Notes

1. Quote from Bella Abzug, "Proposed Text to be Printed in Colloquy Highlights Women's Empowerment: the United Nation's Role, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia Education Fund," in Abzug file at WEDO, 6 May 1995.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bella Abzug Addresses Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing." (Viewed on December 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/sep/12/1995/bella-abzug-addresses-world-conference-on-women-in-beijing>.

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