THE LATEST: The Beijing Platform’s call to action is still relevant 25 years later

by Sarah Sahlaney, Director, Gender & Social Inclusion

In 1995, at the Fourth Conference on Women convened in Beijing, 50,000 men and women from around the world met to create a plan of action for women’s empowerment. As a little girl I watched the grainy footage of the conference from my parents’ living room floor, eating an after-school snack and thinking that it looked like an epic party.

Epic it was. A generation later, almost all of Tanager’s gender work derives from the Beijing Platform for Action. The platform shaped a paradigm, defining the way we think about women’s and girl’s empowerment. I reference the mission statement and concerns on a nearly constant basis in my work. The platform’s 12 concerns — listed below — are echoed in the SDG 5 Gender Equality targets and other gender frameworks that Tanager uses.

The Platform’s Mission Statement highlights the importance of women’s empowerment and active participation in public and private life, as well as “economic, social, cultural, and political decision-making.” It posits that the “human rights of women and of the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. It demands collaborative, diverse, and urgent action to address women’s empowerment.

The 1995 Beijing Platform also demanded action on the following 12 critical areas:

  1. The persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women
  2. Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to education and training
  3. Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to health care and related services
  4. Violence against women
  5. The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, including those living under foreign occupation
  6. Inequality in economic structures and policies, in all forms of productive activities and in access to resources
  7. Inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels
  8. Insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of women
  9. Lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the human rights of women
  10. Stereotyping of women and inequality in women’s access to and participation in all communication systems, especially in the media
  11. Gender inequalities in the management of natural resources and in the safeguarding of the environment

Tanager’s work directly addresses these critical areas. Tanager’s work in nutrition and gender equality in Burkina Faso aims to improve women’s decision-making by increasing participation in the poultry sector. This work aligns directly with critical area # 7 of the Beijing Platform. Tanager also works to help institutions integrate gender programming into their core business and build institutions’ abilities to provide equal access to agricultural education and training. We also address the deficit in women’s leadership roles, highlighting area 2 and 8.  In India, we provide training that promotes women’s and girl children’s human rights (Area 9) to achieve improved social and economic outcomes for women.

Tanager has also been fortunate to work with many women around the world who have been a part of #GenerationEquality. For example, Eliana Leaña Valverde is a survivor of conflict from Bogota, Colombia. So much of Eliana’s experience – losing family members in war, being unable to find work –  aligns with the hardships the Beijing Platform set out to address. Before working with Tanager’s job placement and training program in Colombia, Eliana says her “trust in society was broken after living through cycles of violence.” Addressing Eliana’s difficult situation required a nuanced blend of psycho-social support and educational opportunities. With the support of Tanager and our partners, Eliana studied accounting and administrative support and today she has a steady job and much brighter future.

On the eve of IWD 2020, as I remember the little girl watching Beijing, I feel a mixture of sadness and hope. Sadness because so many of the concerns highlighted in the platform for action persist 25 years later. Hope, because of women in Generation Equality —  like Eliana — who overcome these problems and create opportunities every day. In my work at Tanager, I’m honored to work with women like Eliana who will make #GenerationEquality a reality.