20 Things you need to know about the Beijing +20 Initiative

Mar 7, 2015 at 9:00 p.m. ET
Image: Blend Images - Jon Feingersh/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

In September 1995, 47,000 participants and activists congregated in Beijing for the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women. Everyone who came to Beijing from around the world did so in the pursuit of one common goal: "gender equality and the empowerment of all women, everywhere".

In order to achieve this goal, participants hashed out the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, labelled by UN Women as "the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women's rights". With 2015 being the 20th anniversary (hence the "+20" moniker) of this landmark congregation, a number of events are being held globally to both celebrate the progress that has been made and to take note of setbacks and come up with a new plan of action.

If you weren't aware of the Beijing +20 Initiative, here are the 20 things you should know about the anniversary and the landmark event it's commemorating.

1. The initiative's slogan is "Picture it!"


The overall message of the Beijing +20 Initiative is that if we can imagine it, we can make it a reality. Lakshmi Puri, the deputy executive director of UN Women, was very clear about the motivations behind the campaign's slogan choice. "We want to launch this campaign with all the energy and mobilisation that was evident in Beijing 20 years ago. That's why we chose our slogan, 'Picture it!' We want to ask people to envision a world where all women are empowered."

2. 100 per cent equality is the aim

Act now

Image: UN Women

Gradual progress is incorrectly interpreted as the aim where women's rights and issues are concerned. The Beijing +20 Initiative isn't hoping for gradual progress, they are boldly and unabashedly looking to secure 100 per cent equality in every country, no less.

3. No country has yet achieved all the objectives


The initiative is focused on renewing people's commitment to the ideals set out two decades ago and maximising opportunities to effect change among not just government, but people from all walks of life. As UN Women has declared, "Everyone has a role to play — for our common good."

4. Disadvantaged countries aren't the sole focus

Politics and wages

Image: UN Women

Sexual and physical violence against women, equal pay and career opportunities are among some of the issues that are still prevalent in our own society and we can't expect to make a difference elsewhere if we are still plagued by inequality on home soil.

5. Events have been taking place all over the world


The Beijing +20 Initiative is a global movement. Events have been taking place worldwide since last year and will continue well into this year. Some of the countries hosting events include, but are not limited to, Samoa, Finland, South Africa, Argentina, India, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Kenya, Egypt, Liberia, Mozambique and Guatemala.

6. The main event is happening in March

Human rights

Image: UN Women

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action will take place at the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. This event will take place in New York from March 9-20 and will include a formal commemoration of the 20th anniversary.

7. It will tie in nicely with International Women's Day, which falls on March 8

Make It Happen

Image: UN Women

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Make It Happen", which complements the Beijing +20 Initiative perfectly.

8. The executive director of UN Women, Phumzle Mlambo-Ngcuka, is leading the charge


Image: GCIS/Flickr

Speaking at the launch in June last year, the executive director of UN Women, Phumzle Mlambo-Ngcuka, announced that she was giving gender inequality an "expiry date". Then, she rallied the troops. "This is not Mission: Impossible. It is the mission of our time," she said. "By 2030, we'll be chilling. My grandchildren will say, 'I hear that people used to treat girls badly. Is that true?' Because we can picture it, we can do it." Quite frankly, we'd really like to chill with her.

9. There are very clear areas of focus

Helping women

Image: UN Women

Delegates will be turning their attention to the following key areas of concern:

  • Women and the environment
  • Women in power and decision-making
  • The girl child, women and the economy
  • Women and poverty
  • Violence against women
  • Human rights of women
  • Education and training of women
  • Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
  • Women and health
  • Women and the media
  • Women and armed conflict

10. Men are a critical part of the initiative

He For She

Image: HeForShe

It goes without saying that gender equality cannot be achieved without the commitment of men to adjust their attitudes towards women and to endorse and support equal rights. You will have, no doubt, heard of the #HeForShe campaign and the initiative is an important complement to the Beijing +20 campaign. The events organised as part of the 20th anniversary are not solely female-driven, but rather, many of the events' participants and speakers are men who continue to work towards, and provide uncompromised support to, gender equality.

11. The initiative has already reached a global audience of 40 million people


And it's not hard to see why so many people have been paying attention when you consider how remarkably UN Women has been using social media to advance the cause and bring awareness to the campaign. An all-day tweetathon in multiple languages and involving a wide range of organisations was how they launched the campaign.

12. We have made a lot of progress, particularly over the last 20 years


According to the UN, "More women and girls than at any previous point in time serve in political offices, are protected by laws against gender-based violence, and live under constitutions guaranteeing gender equality."

13. The UN Women's goodwill ambassadors include celebrity advocates


Image: UN Women

Among those who lend their voices and time to advocate for women as part of the UN's programs are Nicole Kidman, Emma Watson, tennis player Sania Mirza, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand and Farhan Akhtar, an actor, filmmaker and singer.

14. In fact, Emma Watson is hosting a Facebook Live event this Sunday


15. The Australian campaign was launched in August


Image: Australian National Committee for UN Women

Phumzle Mlambo-Ngcuka visited Australia for the first time in August last year to launch the campaign at Parliament House in Canberra. She invited every Australian to "join the movement, take action and make your voice heard. In your workplace, your school, your community, online and in the streets, let's make gender equality a reality — now!"

16. The #20for20 campaign is an easy way for everyone to take part


Image: UN Women

As part of the push to not wait another 20 years to see gender equality achieved, UN Women has launched a #20for20 campaign. For only $20 a month, you can play an active part in ensuring the future for females everywhere is a brighter one.

17. A big part of ensuring women's rights is getting girls involved at a young age


To that end, the Girls' Participation Task Force was developed in order to allow young women to actively participate in the work of UN Women. The Task Force helps "prepare, support and empower girls in their UN interactions as young delegates and ensure that girls are present, visible and heard in UN events and documents".

18. The message isn't just about how gender equality will help women


Image: UN Women

A big part of the Beijing +20 Initiative's overall message is that gender equality won't just mean positive things for women, it will mean positive things for all people on a global and economic scale. Equality for women is crucial to success and prosperity for everybody.

19. Technology is a critical factor in the advancement of women


Image: UN Women

This is another area where women and men are not equal. Leveraging technology to empower women and girls is a big part of enabling them to reach their potential and, therefore, UN Women is working towards technological gender parity.

20. There is a sense of optimism


The overarching feeling of the entire initiative is one of optimism. The movement refuses to succumb to defeat and, while very aware of the difficult task ahead, the events held so far have held an overall tone of determination and positivity that the ultimate gender equality outcome is an achievable one. The events have served as rousing calls to action, encouraging participants to spread the message and get this gender equality thing done. The Beijing +20 Initiative isn't holding back at all with its overall message: Gender equality can, and will, be achieved.

United Nations Beijing Declaration Logo

In 1995, the historic United Nations Beijing Declaration imagined a world where every woman and girl can exercise ALL her rights. 20 years later, we’re asking: What has changed for women? What still needs work? SheKnows Media is proud to partner with UN Women on the Beijing+20 Initiative.

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