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United Methodists join in reaffirming Beijing goals for women

 


United Methodists join in reaffirming Beijing goals for women

March 14, 2005       

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS)—Ten years after a landmark conference in Beijing, China, world governments have reaffirmed their commitment to the advancement of women.

Some 80 ministers and 1,800 delegates from 165 members states, as well as seven first ladies, participated in the 10-year review of the result of that conference—the Beijing Platform for Action—during the Feb. 28-March 11 Commission on the Status of Women meeting at the United Nations.

Participating with them were more than 2,600 nongovernmental representatives, including United Methodists and Methodists who were part of a 75-member coalition called Ecumenical Women 2000. In addition to formal sessions and panel discussions, the 12-day meeting included an array of presentations, discussions and other events at the Church Center for the United Nations and other locations.

Religious representatives have been part of the Commission on the Status of Women almost since the meetings began 49 years ago, according to Mia Adjali, executive secretary for global concerns for the Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

This year’s meeting was particularly important, she said, “to make visible the Beijing Platform for Action” and “to evaluate whether there has been any implementation.”

A number of governments—along with nongovernmental organizations in those countries—have completed questionnaires about implementation. The assessment of those actions “shows us how much more we have to do,” Adjali said.

As a coalition of denominations and ecumenical organizations, Ecumenical Women 2000 considered those assessments from the perspective of religion and human rights.

While improvements have occurred in areas such as educating girls, reforming discriminatory laws and the economic advancement and political participation of women, governments need to do more, participants in the review concluded.

In a statement delivered March 8 in the U.N. General Assembly Hall, Ecumenical Women 2000 supported the political declaration adopted unanimously several days earlier by the Commission on the Status of Women, reaffirming the Beijing Platform for Action and calling for its full and immediate implementation.

That declaration initially had been stalled when the U.S. delegation tried to insert an anti-abortion amendment. The amendment later was dropped.

The Rev. Liberato Bautista and Linda Bales, U.N.-related staff of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, were among those urging the U.S. delegation to reconsider the amendment.

“The beauty of the Beijing Platform for Action is that it affirms each nation’s national legislative processes, including the pursuit and promotion of the Beijing Platform,” they wrote. “This includes all that the platform says about the abortion issue: ‘Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.’” 

In its statement, Ecumenical Women 2000 pointed out that 10 years after Beijing, “women and girls around the world continue to suffer much of the burden of war, poverty, all forms of violence and discrimination, and economic injustice. In the last 10 years, increased militarization, trafficking in persons, the rise of all forms of fundamentalisms, negative effects of globalization and neo-liberal economic policies have had a disproportionate harmful impact on women and girls.”

Some of the Ecumenical Women participants, such as Rosemary Wass, president of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, were at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

“It’s been good to be part of Ecumenical Women 2000 because it puts (the issues) into a broader context,” Wass said. Concerns raised by the Beijing Platform for Action will be carried through in Bible studies and workshops at the federation’s 2006 assembly in Korea, she added.

A point of progress since Beijing, she believes, “is a bigger acceptance of women in leadership in many countries.” An issue that needs to be addressed more comprehensively, according to Wass, is violence against women.

Another member of the federation’s team, Greetje Van de Veer, was a first-time participant. She cited her connections with other participants as “one of the reasons why you have to be here.”

A native of the Netherlands who has lived in Italy for many years and is active in the Methodist Church in Italy, Van de Veer is particularly concerned about issues of human rights. “The biggest problem is the problem of poverty,” she added.

Courtney Harvey, a Women’s Division director who works at Lancaster Seminary in Pennsylvania, was attending her third meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. “There’s a whole lot of networking that goes on,” she said.

Harvey was looking for insight on how nongovernmental organizations can work together to move the Beijing goals forward.

While some countries have adopted principles of equality into their constitutions, “the challenge is to transfer the constitution into actual laws,” said Roseangela Oliveira, a United Methodist regional missionary for Latin America.

Elmira Sellu, a United Methodist regional missionary for East Africa, said African governments that have not done so must be lobbied “to walk the talk and fully implement the Beijing Platform for Action in its entirety.”

In addition to fully implementing the platform for action, the Ecumenical Women’s statement called upon U.N. member states to ensure full participation of women in decision-making; guarantee women’s health care and reproductive rights; dedicate sufficient resources to address poverty and unemployment; and reduce military expenditures, reallocating those resources to social and economic development, poverty alleviation, promotion of human security and the advancement of women.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


 

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