[Episcopal News Service] In the fall of 1995, an unprecedented number of women assembled in Beijing, China, for the Fourth World Conference on Women organized by the United Nations. Considered a “watershed moment” for gender equality, the conference created the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a framework for women’s empowerment – which was adopted unanimously by 189 countries.
The 64th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was set to “review and appraise” the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years later. However, the March 9-20 meeting was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual meeting typically draws thousands of people – including Anglicans and Episcopalians – from around the world. Each year, The Episcopal Church sends a delegation representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to observe the meetings and to engage in advocacy alongside Anglican Communion and ecumenical delegates.
In light of that postponement, the presiding bishop’s 2020 delegation is hosting “Beijing+25: Celebrating the Blessing,” an online study group to examine the ways in which The Episcopal Church has engaged in the work laid out by the Beijing document since 1995.
“The online study group will help you and will help all of us further our understanding of how Jesus’ Gospel approach to women and girls fits so beautifully into this Beijing framework and platform for action,” said Lynnaia Main, The Episcopal Church’s representative to the United Nations.
The introductory conversation took place on July 9, with more than 90 participants joining from around the world; the conversation will continue through November.
Earlier this year, The Episcopal Church lamented the commission’s postponement and recommitted to gender justice work during a noonday prayer service on March 9 in the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the church’s Manhattan offices, located a block west of U.N. headquarters. That same morning, the commission convened a procedural meeting with New York-based delegations and civil society representatives.
At that meeting, member states adopted a political declaration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and leaders pledged to ramp up efforts to fully implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
“The success of the Beijing conference and the forum was a watershed moment in the history of humankind,” Ann Smith, an Episcopalian who attended the 1995 meeting, told webinar participants. For decades, Smith has worked on women’s issues alongside others in the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, where she directed the Office of Women’s Ministries.
“We pledged we would bring home the stories, educate women and girls about the 12 [critical] issues and lobby our local and national governments to carry them out,” Smith said. “And for us to keep on moving forward, never turning back. Episcopal and Anglican women were an integral part of this watershed moment.”
The declaration included 12 critical areas of concern:
- Women and poverty
- Education and training of women
- Women and health
- Violence against women
- Women and armed conflict
- Women and the economy
- Women in power and decision-making
- Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
- Human rights of women
- Women and the media
- Women and the environment
- The adolescent/girl child
The study group is scheduled to discuss poverty during its next online session on July 16. Click here for more information or to register.