Bella Abzug Addresses Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing
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.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Bella Abzug Addresses Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing." (Viewed on October 1, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/sep/12/1995/bella-abzug-addresses-world-conference-on-women-in-beijing>.