The UN Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing
Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations has worked to further gender equality globally. Mirroring the rise of the global women’s movement in the 1970s, the UN began a series of world conferences, bringing together government leaders and women activists from every corner of the globe to discuss challenges and opportunities for the world’s women. The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China drew unprecedented crowds and international attention. More than 17,000 participants attended the conference, including 6,000 government delegates, and the parallel NGO forum drew tens of thousands of women activists. The conference was the largest the United Nations had ever hosted.
When then-First Lady Hillary Clinton took the stage to deliver her historic speech, no one knew the impact it would have the worldover, both in that moment and for decades to come. As she spoke, Hillary Clinton went through a litany of the abuses that women face worldwide. To punctuate each of these abuses, she declared each a violation of human rights, and proclaimed for all the world to hear that “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”
For many of the activists in the hall and those watching the speech from afar, it was the first time they had received public validation for the work they were doing to combat these human rights abuses. It was especially significant coming from one of the most powerful women in the world. This speech continues to be remembered as a foundational moment in the modern fight for women’s rights.
Created by Mara D'Amico and Rebecca Turkington, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security 2015.