Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (top) and Monika Bihlmaier


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On the invitation of the African Union’s Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD), a meeting was held on the theme “Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in late October 2019. The event centred on a review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which marks its 25th anniversary in 2020. Some reflections.

We are women. In a room full of women. We are here to discuss how far civil society has come 25 years after the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. The Beijing Conference in 1995 followed the World Women Conferences in Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi, and for women activists, it continues to be one of the major women’s rights frameworks and a key point of reference, especially in the present socio-political climate, where we can see attempts to regress human and women’s rights. But in any other room full of women, somewhere in a rural community, who would have heard of it and would actually know that the Beijing Platform for Action exists? When we look around in this room full of women that we are sitting in here in Addis Ababa, who is there, and who is not?

We are in a highly secured space. In order to access the building, we had to be on the list, be online at some point, have been invited, have a birth certificate in order to get a passport, which can be a journey on its own, be literate in order to read and write our information and apply and of course pay for our tickets and hotel in order to get here. We had to have a suitcase that we could pack and be aware of the unwritten protocol that we would need to follow. We are sitting here dressed “well” in order to enter this space – would they let us enter if we weren’t wearing shoes? And of course there will be the obligatory group photo of all of us. What will be the average age of the women in the picture? Will it reflect the average age of the continents’ populations in Asia, Latin America and Africa?

We were given this space, by authorities.

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