By Jane Lee
Communications & Outreach Associate, YWCA of Queens
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women launched its year-long Beijing+20 Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it! campaign on Thursday, June 26, 2014. The campaign is a year-long movement with the mission of cultivating global dialogue and actions on women’s rights and gender equality. Several staff and students from the YWCA of Queens attended the Beijing+20 launch event at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. Our High School Equivalency (HSE/GED) students were eager to listen to the amazing line-up of speakers and performers, ranging from the UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to noted feminist leader and activist Gloria Steinem.
The Beijing+20 campaign celebrates the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Nearly 20 years ago, the UN adopted the Platform for Action, which outlined and defined a policy framework and plan to achieve gender equality and women’s rights.
By 2015, UN Member States aim to “renew political commitment to accelerate implementation of the comprehensive affirmation of women’s rights and empowerment adopted in 1995 by 189 governments, which remains only partially fulfilled.” With the modern issues that are being debated around the world on and offline, a new framework can be developed based on the real and transformative changes women need today.
It was truly inspiring to listen to such a range of successful women of all ages from all over the world, all advocating for gender equality and human rights, at the Beijing+20 launch. “Our goal is to rekindle the spirit of Beijing to re-energize all of us in our work to advance women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka. “The vision laid out in Beijing, with 12 critical areas of concern for women, still resonates deeply around the world. It is still unfinished business.”
Among the topics discussed were education for girls and women worldwide, the issues of rape and domestic violence, employment and wage gap between genders, women empowerment, and the importance of the role of men in our society to eliminate gender inequality. These subjects were discussed in insightful speeches, musical performances, as well as spoken poetry.
Tiffany Rodriguez, our HSE student who spoke at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, said “I was pretty amazed by how everything turned out. It was full of energy and definitely worth coming back to again. I enjoyed everything, especially the poetry; it stood out to me the most.”
Another student, Erick Menendez, stated, “The event was a good learning experience for me. I think it’s great that there [are] so many people supporting these [women empowerment and gender equality] movements. My favorite part would be the performances, all of them were wonderful.”
As an organization that serves underprivileged women from diverse backgrounds, the inspiring messages from this event gave us extra motivation to keep advocating for the rights of women and elevating our educational and social services that we provide to our community.
Jane Lee is a Communications & Outreach Associate at the Queens branch of the YWCA in New York. She graduated from Ithaca College in 2012 and spent a year teaching English and traveling in Southeast Asia before moving to New York to pursue her career in nonprofit.