1995 Beijing Women's Conference



This week marks the anniversary of the landmark 1995 Fourth World Conference in Beijing. However 20 years on, many women are questioning how far we’ve really come and which priorities still need attention.

This last weekend represents the tail-end of a three-day global leaders summit in New York and the focus will inevitably turn to gender equality, which has become a high profile social issue for the UN throughout the year. UN member states, including Australia will report on the progress made since signing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (a comprehensive roadmap to raise the status of women) which was signed at the Fourth Word Conference in 1995;  the biggest global women’s gathering to date.

However since this momentous landmark for women, many countries have struggled to achieve the goals set during the conference, with many (Australia included) going backwards in terms of key gender equality statistics.

In 1995, it took two weeks of heated political discussion, but eventually delegates thrashed out a landmark document that is now referred to as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It was signed by 189 nations, Australia included and focused on 12 key areas of concern- poverty, education, health, the economy, the media and violence against women, human rights, the girl child, institutional mechanisms, power and decision-making and human rights.

*However 20 years on, these key areas are still very much issues of concern; globally among 196 nations, only 10 have a female head of state and 14 a female head of government. Women make up just one fifth of the world’s parliamentarians and just 17 per cent of ministers.

200 million women don’t have access to modern contraception, while a women dies every two minutes in childbirth.

Closer to home, Australia has it’s own set of issues to worry about particularly in relation to the economy. *The pay gap between women and men within Australia stood at 16.2% in November 1994 (calculated from men and women both working full time, within the same industries, in the same levels of management). By 2004 this number had dropped down to 14.9%. By November it had increased to 17.1%, however this figure does not instil hope into the future generation of working women considering the 20 year gap during this time.

Furthermore, our government are still trying to implement a 40% representation of women across government boards after the previous government put this target in place in 2013. However, between 2013 to 2014 only nine of 18 government board met this goal.

The majority of our public company boards, religious boards, security councils and local councils are still controlled by men and despite our powerful free media, men dominate the ownership of Australia’s major media corporations. Kerry Stokes controls Channel 7, Bruce Gordon is the biggest shareholder for Channel 10 and then of course there is Rupert Murdoch who owns News Limited, which controls the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Australian as well as multiple online corporations.

Does having a team of men own the big media corporations impact on the way women are portrayed in the media? Or the perspective on which things are reported on?

There are no doubts about it; the power balance is definitely skewed. Many are hoping that at the Global Leaders summit in New York, leaders will be able to reflect on the original priorities set out in Beijing and to add/reprioritise these commitments in order to build a new, stronger blueprint for the future,,

To find out more about the landmark 1995 fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, click here: http://beijing20.unwomen.org/en/step-it-up