The Millionth Circle Initiative and 5WWC
Citizen activism begins with concern that "something needs to be done!"
A contingent of 26 women from the Millionth Circle Initiative went as NGO delegates to the United Nations for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meetings in 2002. We learned no plans were being made for a Fifth UN International Conference on Women. There were several reasons given (in informal conversations): no country had offered to host it; if another conference were held the Bush administration would try to weaken the Beijing Platform for Action (which in 2005 they unsuccessfully attempted ); and the UN focus since 9/11 was concentrating on global conflicts and potential conflicts. (This was a time in 2002 when UN teams were still searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.) It also seemed to those of us who went to the UN CSW that burnout by hard working women on frontline NGOs might also be contributing to the apparent lack of energy for a 5th UN women's conference.
Beginning in 1975 previous conferences had been held in Mexico City (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing (1995). Each had been larger and more significant than the one before. There was a widely held mistaken assumption that the next one would be in 2005, ten years after Beijing. As there is at least a three-year lead time needed to plan and make arrangements, and with no plans on the drawing boards in 2002, this was obviously not going to happen in 2005.
(For more information about the World Conferences on Women check out 5WWC.org)
There will not be one at all, ever again, unless new momentum can revitalize it.
At every previous conference women came from all over the world, talked and bonded, learned from each other, and formed a network of friendships and political alliances on behalf of women. Most significantly women's rights were recognized as human rights in the Beijing Platform for Action. Until this conference women were considered passive victims in an unequal world. The conference addressed gender relations rather than women's issues, recognizing that women's roles and status are equal in relation to men. The word gender was challenged in Beijing by countries that do not see women and men as equal human beings but as necessarily different sexes with fixed social roles. This challenge was overcome.
Governments agreed to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in twelve areas of concern, and to report progress in 2000 and 2005. For more information online, enter "Beijing Platform for Action" at Google or other Internet search engines.
The next one could change the world.
Since Beijing we have the Internet as a means of easy global communication and connection. It gives us power at our fingertips to move ideas and funds, to mobilize and organize and to make a difference. E-mails would facilitate meetings at a Fifth World Conference and make follow-up and continuation easy. List-serves would make distribution of information immediate; websites and links among them would be invaluable. The value is getting things done through personal alliances and connections. Finding out who to reach, and how, is often only a matter of one to three degrees of separation. More would be done for women by women.
5WWC as a Grassroots Initiative
The continuing purpose of 5WWC is to support the idea and influence the United Nations to hold a 5th UN International Conference for Women by encouraging women who want a fifth conference to become involved in making it happen by providing information, facilitating collaborative efforts, helping lobbying efforts, and organizing a petition drive to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Economic and Social Council to which the CSW reports, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
To become a part of actualizing a 5th Women's World Conference, go to www.5WWC.org and join the movement. This site also has background information on all the
For detailed information on the Beijing Platform for Action adopted in 2000 and other information on the UN and women go to www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw.
Another website concerning women's rights and the UN is WUNRN. It is a worldwide information center and forum. It acts as a catalyst to encourage women's NGOs and other organizations and programs to exchange information on research and practical programs to promote tolerance and end discrimination against women based on religion and traditions.