To Achieve Women’s Goals in Beijing, The Time to Act Is Now

This post was written by Hibaaq Osman and was cross-posted from UN Women

The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was my first major international meeting and my first experience collaborating with a community of women activists, policymakers, academics and leaders who were passionate about women’s issues and gender equality. Women who I had never before met opened up their hearts to me and we were able to connect on our shared areas of interest and work. The time we spent together was liberating, as at that time, it was a novelty for me to see women’s issues discussed so openly among a diverse group and in a supportive, communal space. At the meeting’s conclusion, I was proud to see the BPFA adopted by the United Nations as a symbol of the international community’s commitment to promote women’s well-being and advancement.

Since then, incredible progress has been made, coaxed along by the adoption of international agreements including the Millennium Development Goals and UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820. The most significant point of advancement, in my opinion, is that women’s rights are being taken seriously. More people than ever are aware of women’s issues and of the importance of women’s inclusion.

In the Arab region, where Karama works, new laws have been enacted, new coalitions have been mobilized and new strategies have been implemented. In 2008, Jordan enacted its first law on domestic violence. In 2012, Libya adopted an alternate quota that won women nearly 17 percent of seats in the new assembly. In 2014, Tunisia lifted all reservations on the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). These are just some of the tangible results that have been achieved.

However, so much remains to be done to truly achieve what the BPFA and other international agreements set out to do. At the last progress update—Beijing+15, nearly five years ago—it was noted that significant challenges remain in all countries, notably with respect to the effective implementation of existing legislation. Constitutions, agreements and policies that support women’s inclusion, participation, and equality make up only one piece of the puzzle; their successful enforcement is a completely different animal, without which all other progress in this area is effectively rendered meaningless.

Of note among ongoing challenges is pressure from conservatives who seek to narrow the scope of progress in key resolutions, declarations, and discussions. In the Arab region, this has been especially true following the Arab uprisings, when new regimes sought to reinstate preexisting discriminatory laws. But women now more than ever are playing an active role in advocating for their own rights. They were at the forefront of revolutionary protests and continue to be on the ground, risking everything to be engaged, included and heard. It is clear that women will never again shy away from demanding their rights. More than ever, they are mobilizing, working together in coalitions and across boundaries to lobby governments and institutions to change laws or better implement existing legislation.

It is clear that women are invested in the manifestation of the Beijing Platform for Action. But with Beijing+20 just around the corner, there is much work to be done in order to see this work come to fruition. We must act strategically, quickly and together. And we must act now.

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Hibaaq Osman is a global political strategist who attended the Beijing Conference in 1995. Today, she heads Karama, an international organization based in Cairo that is working to end violence against women in the Arab region and is a partner of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality. Ms. Osman is also a member of UN Womens Global Civil Society Advisory Group.

Photo: Brauer Photos/Hubert Burda Media


Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Anne F.
Anne F3 years ago

Good to read -- we need to work as best we can to keep children safe. There is an emerging consensus that educated women make the world better for their families and all of us. Read Countdown by Alex Weisman for lots more

Tammy I.
Tammy I3 years ago

BMutiny T. states, "Other people, women and their allies, of other nationalities, are talking to each other, advising each other, giving substantial and necessary support to each other!
We Americans don't "run the whole show"!
Women of other nationalities are literate, intelligent, and politically-aware..."

Thank you, BMutiny, for reminding us that women and men across the globe are involved in women's issues. Sometimes, we tend to point our finger at the "other" not realizing we are all one.

I hear a call to action for women to unite in America in order to bring change either FIRST to our country, or a call for women to unite globally to bring change everywhere.

I disagree with both! WOMEN AND MEN need to unite and stand against the abuse, the disrespect and the disparity, period.

How any man can abuse a woman is beyond my comprehension. We women carry and nourish each human being in our womb and painfully birth each life on this planet, while risking our own. As a specie, we cannot survive unless the male returns to the female to reproduce. It's that simple.

Each act of violence and disrespect against a woman is ultimately an act against the human being, an act against oneself.

It's time to wake up already!

Candy Carr
Candy Carr3 years ago

Thnk u for posting, as humans we all have rights, rights to stand up for

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Ms. Osman, author of this article, heads an International Organization based in Cairo, which is in Egypt, DUH, which suggests, along with her name, that she may be Egyptian by nationality.
This is NOT an example of "Americans telling other countries what to do"!
Care2 may be based in America, but, in case you haven't noticed yet, C2 has LOTS of International members!
Re-printing an article from an International source, "UN Women", does not make this "Americans telling other people what to do".

What some people can't seem to "get", at all, is, that in ALL COUNTRIES there is a VIABLE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT.
We like to think we're "ahead" and that Arab countries in particular, are "stagnant" and "hopeless". This feeds our Egos somehow.
This article DIRECTLY GOES COUNTER to such ideas!
No matter how repressive, no matter how great a backlash against Women's Rights, Women ARE Internationally making progress, slowly but surely. And that's what this is all about. Women are GETTING TOGETHER TO SUPPORT EACH OTHER ACROSS NATIONAL BORDERS. This is not just "Americans telling other people what to do". Other people, women and their allies, of other nationalities, are talking to each other, advising each other, giving substantial and necessary support to each other!
We Americans don't "run the whole show"!
Women of other nationalities are literate, intelligent, and politically-aware...

Nikolas K.
Nikolas K3 years ago

As Barbara .s. stated woman need to fix their own backyard before telling another country what to do given the problems woman in America moan about yet are very quick to only take action when it concerns someone else humanity needs to wake up to the fact that change can only come from within.

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Thanks for the post.

Robert O.
Robert O3 years ago

No time like the present to make a better tomorrow. Thanks.

Jane Hathaway
Jane Hathaway3 years ago

Thank you for this informative article.