Beijing+20 - Women’s rights worldwide – time for implementation once and for all

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Gender equity is vital to social development and peaceful cohabitation, to reducing violence and to achieving economic prosperity. Poverty can only be lastingly combated and human rights enforced if women are granted extensive equal access to education, public offices and powerful positions. This recognition formed the basis for the Beijing Platform for Action as far back as 20 years ago for which a strong international women’s movement had fought and which was adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. It was considered back then – and is still considered today – to mark a milestone in the entrenching of women’s and human rights worldwide and was recognized by 191 member states of the United Nations.

Yet, even today, gender equity and the systematic reduction of discrimination against women worldwide remain very distant realities. Whilst achievements have certainly been made in advancing equal rights for women and girls – though these vary depending on the region – there have also been setbacks and regressions in gender equality. On an international scale, the political climate is defined by a conservative mobilization campaign against women’s human rights: politically religious fundamentalists across the board are on the advance; gender-based violence and the curtailment of women’s rights are on the rise. 


“Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!”. With this slogan, UN Women has been mobilizing international representatives of women’s NGOs worldwide to engage in “Beijing + 20” and calling for a new boost in the participation and emancipation of women. Beijing + 20 aims to take stock of what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved and will take place at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) from 9 – 20 March. 

On this site, we will be providing key information on the Beijing Platform for Action and “Beijing + 20”, and on debates that will be taking place in New York in connection with the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Above all, we have outlined the core activities, debates and strategic developments that are being undertaken in various regions as part of the work of the international offices of the Heinrich Boell Foundation and its partner organizations in order to promote gender equity, reduce discrimination against women, but also other genders, and to enforce the human rights  of women.

The Beijing Platform for Action comprises twelve critical areas, which we would like to present here:

  1. Women and poverty
  2. Education and training of women
  3. Women and health
  4. Violence against women
  5. Women and armed conflict
  6. Women and the economy
  1. Women in power and decision-making
  2. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
  3. Human rights of women
  4. Women and the media
  5. Women and the environment
  6. The girl child

Beijing+20 - Across Areas

Good to Know

  • Progress of the World's Women 2015/2016: detailed report by the UN Women on the economical barriers facing women, and strategies of improving the political participation of women on a global scale. more>>
  • Beijing Platform for Action
    Read the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action here
    An overview the Platform's 12 critical areas of concern by the UN Women. more>>
  • Women in Armed Conflicts: in the context of the CSW 59, the GWI co-hosted an event at concering a pressing issue for the Platform - women in armed conflicts. more>>


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Women and Poverty

In the last 5 years, the impact of the global economic crisis were felt around the world. Particularly affected by poverty are households run by single women.

 Elizabeth Petersen, Director of the gender-based violence focused organization, South African Faith and Family Institute

The Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southern Africa office spoke to five leading women’s rights activists on their perceptions of the challenges that women in South Africa face today and whether the Beijing Declaration, and South Africa’s commitment to it, remains relevant to addressing those challenges.


In Brazil, women of color face double discrimination because of their gender and skin color. Most often, they live in favelas - the slums of the poor at the cities' outskirts. Manoela Vianna reports about three women who fight for a change

Education and Training of Women

Creator: nguyentuanhung. Public Domain.

In the past 20 years since the declaration of the Beijing Platform of Action, massive improvements were achieved concerning the accessibility of primary education worldwide.


In times of war, when only the voice of arms is heard, the voice of the unarmed is lost; however it is essential to listen to the latter because sooner or later the arms will go silent and it will be necessary to start learning to live in peace.

Feminism and the womens media

Women’s magazines have long faced critique for their often narrow and conceptualized portrayal of women and the impact that this has on the consumer. In their paper, Joy Watson and Claudia Lopes explore both harmful and emancipatory  aspects of women's magazines over different periods in time.

Women and Health

Creator: UNFPA/Andrew Cullen. All rights reserved.

Reproductive health and rights are a central element of the “Women and Health” chapter in Beijing. It goes far beyond basic family planning and refers, for example, to the right to live in an environment that allows people to enjoy their sexuality or be free of sexual force and sexual violence.

Sok Sothea at the Women's Conference on Beijing+20 in Cambodia

Sok Sothea, a young Cambodian activist from the Youth Fellowship for Democracy reports on the situation of women and girls in Cambodia with regards to education, health and employment.

Benu Maya Gurung at the Women's Conference on Beijing+20 in Cambodia

Benu Maya Gurung reports on the situation of Women in Nepal 20 years after the Beijing Conference in 1995

Violence against Women

Creator: jonphillips. Public Domain.

Violence against women is an expression of gender inequality and a reflection on the power relations that exist in society. Acts of violence range from sexual harassment and domestic violence to genital mutilation and trafficking in women to forced prostitution.

In Beirut many people engage in women's rights, as for example at this anti-rape protest in 2012. Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, women literally have no rights, says women's rights activist Lina Abou Habib

For feminist and women's rights activist Lina Abou Habib, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action can be considered a milestone in fighting for women's rights in Lebanon. An interview by Noor Baalbaki

The Danzer case: local subsidiary pays military and police to brutally harrass residents

The Danzer case is an example of European businesses working in conflict regions and profiting greatly from the brutal actions by the police, the army or paramilitary groups. Anna von Gall analyzes the international legal framework and urges Germany to pursue legislative clarification relating to due diligence requirements for foreign subsidiaries of European companies

Women and Armed Conflict

Creator: UN Photo/Mark Garten. Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

Violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The sole female doctor of the Herat Regional Military Hospital is honored in 2011. Afghan Women have had a long journey in terms of their rights and socio-political participation since the Taliban downfall in 2001.

Afghan Women have had a long journey in terms of their rights and socio-political participation since the Taliban downfall in 2001. As Afghanistan has just entered into a new decade of transformation, the main questions related to women, peace and security remain: What has been built to ensure women’s protection and participation over the last decade? And what strategic approach could consolidate gender equality in the decade to come?

Barbara Lochbihler at the Women's Conference on Beijing+20 in Cambodia

Barbara Lochbihler resumes the efforts of the Women's League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in promoting peace and equal rights in the context of the Beijing Conference in 1995.

Women and the Economy

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Includes the right to freedom to choose an occupation, as well as on the decent pay.

Ly Pisey at the Women's Conference on Beijing+20 in Cambodia

20 years after the Beijing Platform for Action, Ly Pisey from the Women‘s Network for Unity critically reflects on the ongoing work improving women's lives in Cambodia.

Kasumi Nakagawa at the Women's Conference on Beijing+20 in Cambodia

20 years after the Beijing Platform for Action, Kasumi Nakagawa, Professor at the Pannasastra University of Cambodia, reports on the improvements and challenges regarding gender equality in education and employment in Cambodia.

Women in Power and Decision-making

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The Beijing Platform for Action called for equal access and full participation of women in power as well as in decision-making processes.


Last December, the Israeli Government decided to establish a governmental committee to create a National Action Plan in the spirit  of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The resolution calls on UN member states to protect women from violence, increase the participation of diverse women in decision-making bodies, and for the prevention of armed conflict. This video and the text that follows tells the story of the journey of civil society NGOs to create an Action Plan for Israel.

Michaela Marksová Tominová is a Czech politician concerned with gender equality

Although Michaela Marksová Tominová studied natural sciences, she has long been engaged with the issue of gender equality. This is the politicians view on the implementation of Beijing +20 in the Czech Republic

Institutional Mechanism for the Advancement of Women

Creator: UN Women/Ryan Brown. Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

To preserve and implement the rights of women and girls, the Platform for Action has formulated strategic goals aimed at helping governments to entrench a gender equality perspective in every policy area. The goal is to guarantee women equal access to and full participation in power as well as in decision-making processes.


While legislative and institutional progresses have been made in Morroco, the implementations of Beijing +20 often remain inadequate and below the citizens’ expectations due to a lack of budgetary resources or political willingness.

two rods with stickers with arrows up and down

The rejection of the gender equality strategy is an emblematic representation of tension in EU economic and social policies, which has concerned women’s advocates since the beginnings of the financial crisis.

Human Rights of Women

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Human rights are women’s rights. Despite this, women in many countries are still denied their rights. One of the core demands of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action is therefore to safeguard and promote the human rights of women by the governments.


As Anna Argashvili recalls her childhood, she rememers the roles available to women in post-Soviet Georgia, traces the first instances of protest and resistance and highlights the current struggles of human rights activist in the region.

In this interview Butalia speaks about womens rights, the anti-rape movement and about the new elected Prime Minister.

Women and the Media

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Today, we can see that digital media may have repeatedly changed forms of social interaction and self-portrayal in the virtual world, yet the new means and possibilities have done nothing to change the patriarchal power structures that prevail there.


Violent communication has relevant effects on queer feminist internet activism. This article focuses on options and necessities of regulating such forms of violent anti-feminist and racist communication. How to prevent or to stop violent online-communication?

Humaira Saqib

Humaira Saqib is the chairwoman and editor-in-chief of Women News Agency and Nigah-e Zan magazine. She is also a member of the leadership board of the “Women Political Participation Committee” and a member of “Afghanistan 1400.” In the interview she talks about the political future of women in Afghanistan.

Women and the Environment

Climate protection activists are struggling to see the strategic objectives of the Platform for Action included and implemented. Their motto: “System Change, not Climate Change”. Creator: Kris Krug. Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

Climate change, and its significance, is one of the greatest challenges of our time. As far back as twenty years ago, the Platform for Action called for the active participation of women in environmental decision-making. One reason: women and men are affected differently by the effects of climate change.

Hoy Sochivanny at the Women's Conference on Beijing+20 in Cambodia

Hoy Sochivanny reports on the achievements in matters of Women's Rights in Cambodia in the last 20 years since the Beijing Conference in 1995 and today's challenges

The women of the mountain villages in Rajasthan, India, carry 70 lbs. (or 32kgs) of wood on their heads for cooking every day. This woman is carrying a generator for repair in a nearby village

Rural women increasingly come to be seen as vital agents in response to climate change. Disproportionately affected by it's impacts, these women also have a critical role in combating the weather changes, analyses Camila Moreno.

The Girl-child

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Girls constitute a social group most discriminated, offended, abused, injured and killed in the world – all too often simply because they are girls.

Woman on train

Declining sex ratios due to decades of discrimination against women in certain parts of India have left many men unmarried. An interview about cross-regional marriage migration with Ravinder Kaur.

Portrait Simia Ramish

Simia Ramish is a civil rights activist and journalist. As a candidate in the Herat provincial council election she aims to play an active role in politics. In this interview she explains her goals and wishes for Afghanistan.

Beijing+20 - Across Areas

Creator: UN Photo/Zheng Yan Hui. All rights reserved.

The Platform for Action imagines a world where each woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices, and realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions and to earn equal pay for equal work.


Th Heinrich-Boell-Foundation in Nairobi has created six illustrations that highlight and discuss some of the ongoing challenges around the imporant tasks of targeting and reaching men as advocates for gender equality in Kenya.

Detail from the Publication by hbs Cambodia

What is the legacy of the Beijing Conference, and its relevance today in Cambodia? A new publication by hbs Cambodia collects excerpts from the discussion that took place on the 16th of February 2015 at Metahouse in Phnom Penh.

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