By Naana Otoo-Oyortey, Technical officer, Gender and Youth, IPPF and Chair of FORWARD.
The UN Special Session of Beijing + 5, otherwise known as ‘Women 2000: Gender Equality Development and Peace in the 21st Century’ took place in New York from 5-10 June 2000. This conference was attended by more than 10,000 delegates, mostly women from about 188 countries and over 1000 NGOs, all with a multitude of agendas and interests. I was in New York in my capacity as an NGO representative from the International Planned Parenthood Federation
The review meeting was to assess progress made in the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, adopted in 1985 as well as the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. This meeting also considered further actions and initiatives for the advancement of women.
The Forum on Marriage and Rights of Women and Children held a joint session with UNICEF on “Early Marriage: Whose Right to Choose?” on June 7th. As part of this session, I gave a presentation on FORWARD’s work with Rehabilitating Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) patients in Northern Nigeria .
Mrs Chantal Compaore, the wife of the President of Burkina Faso and Goodwill Ambassador of the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting Women and Children Health delivered an impressive speech about FGM together with the wife of the Burundi Head of State. She called for a commi- tment to women’s empowerment and to adopt a more holistic approach to the eradication of FGM. A workshop on reproductive health and rights for African immigrant women focused on FGM and highlighted innovative strategies for community empowerment.
The final document produced at Beijing+5 stated that Governments in co-operation with local women’s groups, need to develop, adopt and fully implement laws, policies and educational programmes to help eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as part of initiatives concerning violence against women.
I came back from New York having learnt that women’s rights are indeed human rights and that it is worthwhile remembering that “women have been tolerant for far too long and now women can’t wait any longer”.