U.S. media outlets began reporting in late May on Women 2000, also known as Beijing+5. The conference brought thousands of women and men from 185 countries to a United Nations General Assembly Special Session evaluating womens progress worldwide since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Leaders from the United States and around the world, including hundreds of representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), held panels, workshops and special events throughout New York City starting on May 30 through June 9.
The following is an extensive analysis of coverage in U.S media, based both on news clips posted daily during the conference in our Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC) press room and on subsequent stories. Please feel free to share this analysis with others interested in how the media viewed Women 2000/Beijing+5 and its issues. For additional background, please visit CCMCs journalists websites at http://www.women2000newsroom.org and http://www.planetwire.org. The latter includes a summary Webcast of conference highlights.
This analysis first presents a few striking facts that some news outlets reported but that you may have missed. It then reviews the coverage as a whole (dividing it into stories before the Special Session, coverage during the conference, and wrap-up articles), focuses on key wire, print and broadcast reports and finally summarizes editorials and columns.
Although this analysis focuses on mainstream media coverage, there was extensive alternative press coverage of Women 2000, particularly on the Web. Women-centered Web sites such as iVillage and Oxygen provided ongoing coverage of the conference and in some cases posted portions of the NGO press kit; however their coverage is not archived. Womens Web sites with archived coverage include Womens Enews (http://www.womensenews.org), which included a series of by-line pieces by guest authors; Women.com (http://www.women.com/news/features/f0605un.html); Lifetime Television for Women (http://www.lifetimetv.com/about/trophy/bejing_plus5.html) and WomenAction 2000 (http://www.womenaction.org/ungass/multimedia.html). At the center of the online press was a vibrant Internet café operated by WomenAction 2000, where women from around the world sent and received stories and shared information with one another.
In summary, media coverage of Women 2000 was extremely positive except for a handful of outlets. It included substantive review of U.N. negotiations and NGO activities, highlighting womens progress in various countries and continuing challenges since Beijing. Some stories left readers with questions about the review process and what the "next steps might be, but overall the event generated the most coverage womens rights has received in a long while, and put the issue on the radar screens of many reporters and news outlets.
DID YOU KNOW?
COVERAGE BEFORE THE U.N. SPECIAL SESSION
The first stories focused on two new U.N. reports and a new documentary film. Findings from the U.N. Statistics Divisions report The Worlds Women 2000 and a new UNICEF report, "Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls," were featured May 30-June 1 by the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Record (NJ). According to the AP, the Worlds Women 2000 report "called on governments to revise laws to ensure women's equal rights, to provide equal education for girls and ensure the right of women to decide matters of sexual and reproductive health," to put women in top decision-making positions, and to end violence against them. The Tribune looked at womens devastating AIDS statistics and abuses of women refugees, African womens short life expectancies, and the "glass ceiling" in business and politics. According to the Times the UNICEF report found that ''violence against women and girls continues to be a global epidemic" and that "statistics are grim" in every nation.
A May 30 Associated Press story on the Jane Fonda documentary "Realities of Girls' Lives: How We Can Act Now" noted that the Platform for Action "set an ambitious goal of achieving full equality between women and men" and "spelled out objectives in a dozen critical areas." The May 30 USA Today, May 31 NBC Today Show, and June 1 Chicago Sun-Times also reported on the actor-activists 14-minute film, which examines the lives of Nigerian girls, focusing on teen pregnancy. In the "Today Show" interview, Fonda described her visit to Nigeria as a way to draw attention to Beijing+5. In the USA Today article she was quoted as saying, "You cannot alleviate poverty and you cannot create sustainable development if you don't improve the lives of women."
The early coverage included a major profile in The New York Times May 31 of Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Womens Global Leadership. The "Public Lives" feature said her mission was to build "a worldwide network of feminists who will press their local governments to end violence against women, be it genital mutilation in Africa, bride burning in India, honor killing in the Middle East or rape on the battlefields of Bosnia." CNN interviewed Angela King, U.N. special adviser on gender issues, on the same day. Then, a Religion News Service story printed May 27 in the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on the challenge by Catholics for a Free Choice to the observer status of the Holy See at the U.N.
COVERAGE DURING THE SPECIAL SESSION: SERIES
The Associated Press, The New York Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Toledo Blade, ABC World News Tonight, National Public Radio, CNN, Lifetime Television for Women and Oxygen Cable Network all provided extensive coverage of the special session, NGO activity, and the impact of the Platform for Action on womens lives around the world.
The Associated Press ran at least 15 stories on Women 2000, and they were picked up by news outlets nationwide: the Chicago Tribune, The Buffalo News, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH), The Record (Bergen County, NJ), Telegraph Herald, (Dubuque, IA), The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT), and the Ventura County Star (CA) among dozens of other outlets around the country.
On June 2 and 3, AP summarized conference history and quoted Charlotte Bunch as saying the biggest achievement since Beijing "is that women are really on the agenda." She also noted "a backlash against womens visibility and against women pushing the boundaries of the issues."
Another AP story described First Lady Hillary Rodham Clintons speech to a standing-room-only crowd of 1,500, where she saluted microcredit loan programs set up in Beijing to assist "100 million of the worlds poorest families." She cited advances since the 1995 Beijing conference: new laws in many countries raising the legal age for marriage, banning female genital mutilation, criminalizing domestic violence and recognized rape as a war crime. (The Washington Post, United Press International, The New York Post, and Newsday reported June 6 on Clintons speech.) The AP reported on the Women 2000 Economic Empowerment Forum, where Linda Tarr-Whelan, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, summed up the session this way: "We have to make the case that economies cannot thrive without women as full partners."
On June 7, the AP reported on efforts to encourage male involvement in advancing the Platform for Action. The piece focused on the Canada-based White Ribbon Campaign, which urges men to wear a white ribbon as a pledge never to commit or condone violence against women and never to be silent about violence they witness. The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran a June 11 story quoting Dr. Robert Hatcher, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University in Atlanta: "Improving the status of women has to include men husbands, boyfriends, physicians and political leaders."
The AP also reported on the Womens Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) launch of a campaign for gender equality in government by 2005. June Zeitlin, executive director of WEDO, was quoted as saying, "If government wont commit, the women will, and were going to hold them to it."
Several AP stories reported on the argument among womens rights activists, the Vatican and some Islamic and Catholic countries about who was preventing consensus on a U.N. document that would accelerate the drive for equality of the sexes. Gita Sen, professor at the Indian Institute of Management and head of a grassroots womens group, said many countries were ready to reaffirm the Platform. Listing those stalling the final agreementthe Vatican, Nicaragua, Libya, Sudan and IraqSen said, "We hope that this hard core will move so that the tyranny of this miniscule minority can be ended."
The AP reported that Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said "the real reason this document is not finished is because of radical language being pushed by rich western states and that they are attempting to spread immorality to the developing world in a new kind of sexual colonialism." The stories reported that several key officials expressed concern over the lack of consensus. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright voiced the sentiments of many when she said that the session "obliges us to chart a path that will lead to ever more rapid progress in the new century."
Reporting on final results, the AP noted that the conference, scheduled to end on Friday afternoon, did not end until Saturday evening when the delegates from 180 countries reached consensus. Angela King said members "now have a clearly defined roadmap for the continuing journey toward gender equality." Measures were added to combat domestic violence, sex trafficking, and the impact of globalization on women. APs last story on June 13 said that participants were heading home "determined to stop making speeches and start taking action."
The New York Times continued its coverage with a June 6 story that focused on Hillary Clintons appearance at a UNIFEM meeting and the adoration she received there. A Wisconsin Capital Times piece on June 13 similarly reported on Hillarys popularity with the crowd. The New York Times also reported that Gita Sen, a development expert from India, warned that the Women 2000 conference, like the one in Beijing, "was in danger of sinking into arid debate over definitions and intentions. This meeting is intended to look for ways to move ahead, not to reopen debate on the issues."
On June 7, the Times did a featured piece on a new poll commissioned by the Aspen Institutes "Womens Lens" project on womens global views, which was released during the special session. At a press conference about the new poll, U.S. Congressional representatives Carolyn Maloney, Joseph Crowley and Barbara Lee discussed the importance of building a U.S constituency for global issues. For copies of the poll, visit http://www.women2000newsroom.org/poll.pdf. The Times quoted Womens Lens director Joan Dunlop as saying, "What this poll tells us is that American women understand that the well-being of themselves, their families and communities are increasingly intimately connected with the well-being and stability of other countries." According to the Times, the poll, conducted by Belden Russonello & Stewart, found that 69 percent of women sampled said global problems necessitated a close relationship between the U.S. and international organizations like the U.N.
Also on June 7, the Times reported on performance artist Sarah Jones, who appeared in a one-woman show commissioned by Equality Now to focus attention on laws that discriminate against women.
The June 8 Times piece described Egypt as a "pivotal" country on womens rights and included quotes from the Egyptian first lady and Beijing+5 attendee Suzanne Mubarak. The Times reported, "Since the Cairo and Beijing conferences, Egypt has outlawed genital cutting of girls and revised its civil code to make it easier for a woman to obtain a divorce, and has expanded and clarified women's rights in family law."
A June 11 Times article, "After the Fall, Traffic In Flesh, Not Dreams," focused on womens often desperate situation in formerly communist countries, and on activists against forced prostitution: "Selma Gasi, 20, an activist with the Women to Women group in Bosnia, tells a particularly chilling tale of pimps, accompanied by older women, scouring the war-devastated villages, ostensibly for sitters or housemaids, and taking girls as young as 14 to strip-dancing bars where they become prostitutes."
Also on June 11, a New York Times News Service article about the end of the conference, which ran in several papers, quoted Angela King as saying, "I'm very happy that the dire predictions that there would be a rollback have proved false We were determined to get a strong document that did not in any way diminish the gains women had achieved in Beijing. We were also determined to go beyond Beijing, and we did, despite the efforts of countries that made the process such an arduous one." United Press International ran a similar story on June 10.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Toledo Blade ran a front-page series of stories in both papers June 4-10 discussing the 12 "areas of concern" of the Platform for Action. The series opened on June 4 with a history of the Beijing Conference and details of a "report card" from U.S. Women Connect: in which the United States received a failing grade on addressing women and poverty and a B grade for increasing women in power and decision-making. CNN and ABC News covered the report card as well. Another Post-Gazette article June 4 focused on local women who had attended the Beijing gathering, the influence it had on their professional and personal lives and the importance of a global approach to womens rights.
Other Post-Gazette stories during the week focused on women and poverty, rape as a weapon of war, sex trafficking, violence against women, education, the media, and the girl child. The series concluded June 10 with a piece that said the special session "made no bold, new steps on the road to gender equality because of basic disagreements over abortion, the need to change cultural patterns of behavior between men and women, whether there are sexual rights [and] the extent of government involvement in family planning." In spite of this, the story found that the special session also did not retreat from the goals set in Beijing. (The full series can be read at
ABC World News Tonight broadcast stories June 2-9 on issues including honor killings, Egyptian womens right to a divorce, womens position in politics, and HIV/AIDS transmission among African women. The network opened its coverage by interviewing Charlotte Bunch. She noted "an amazing amount of solidarity thats going on now amongst womens groups," where women worldwide will write letters to protest outrages done to other women anywhere. The profile can be found at http://www.abcnews.go.com/onair/WorldNewsTonight/wnt000602_21st_bunch_feature.html.
On June 5, ABC reported on domestic violence worldwide, focusing on violence in the name of honor that continues to occur in the Middle East. The report showed the brutality of these crimes and that some protests have caused changes. Pakistans President Pervez Musharraf promised to "treat honor killings as murder." The king of Jordan vowed to "end the practice." Also on June 5, ABC broadcast a piece on Hillary Clinton, including excerpts from her conference speech on womens need "to be engaged in politics" and from her address on the importance of microcredit loans to women.
On June 6, World News Tonight ran a piece about womens networks that help new entrepreneurs raise capital. Catherine Muther, founder of Womens Technology Cluster, said, "If you dont have access to that network of relationships, youre not going to be successful in getting the referrals that introduce you to sources of capital." Also on June 6, the network reported on liberalized divorce laws in Egypt, where until recently women had no right to divorce even if they were victims of domestic violence. The broadcast concluded with examples in China and Nigeria of ways the Platform for Action has made a difference in many womens lives, and noted that 10 million poor women have received loans from the World Bank to start small businesses. The report also reflected the lack of progress in some areas, such as the few number of women elected to office.
For part of the ABC coverage see http://www.abcnews.go.com/onair/DailyNews/wntbeijing000605.html.
National Public Radio (NPR) ran five stories about Women 2000 on separate days. On June 5, Morning Edition focused on the findings of the World Bank report on women and interviewed its co-author Elizabeth King. The story showed that while girls primary education has advanced in some areas, infanticide, abortion, and neglect are still major problems in South Asia and China. The following day, All Things Considered featured an interview with Charlotte Bunch, who emphasized the conferences "mixed verdict" on womens rights. Bunch cited positive changes such as laws barring violence against women but also noted backlash in countries like Afghanistan. She asserted that the four conferences on women "have without question advanced the womens movement internationally."
On June 9, NPRs All Things Considered listed the "ambitious goals" set in Beijing, noting that "Women 2000" still faced the same obstacles: opposition to sexual and reproductive rights by Catholic and Muslim countries. The piece included soundbites from Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton and mentioned the conference goal of electing women to be 30 percent of legislatures worldwide. (Story online at http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/atc/20000609.atc.17.ram).
On June 10, NPRs Weekend Edition ran an interview with Joanna Foster, head of Women in Law and Development in Africa, and Jocelyn Dow, president of the Womens Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) about plans for action after "Women 2000." They called it an "international commitment" and a "mobilizing tool" for womens rights In the future, international conferences will likely be organized by womens organizations themselves due to a lack of enthusiasm from the U.N. and the U.S. Congress, they said. (Story online at http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/wesat/20000610.wesat.02.ram.)
On June 11, Weekend Edition did a story on WEDO and its campaign to increase womens numbers in government, "50-50 by 2005: Get the Balance Right!" Margaret Alva of Indias parliament praised the effects of bringing a million women into politics at the local level. The story noted that the United States trails other countries in the "50-50" effort because of U.S. "distaste for quotas, the electoral system, the money needed for campaigns." (Story online at http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/atc/20000609.atc.17.ram.)
CNNs June 3 introduction said "most of the worlds nations were going to step toward equal rights for women in 1995." It included quotes from special advisor Angela King, Faizo Mohamed of Equality Now, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said a nation that denies women cannot reach its full potential. Another June 3 piece discussed violence against women. On June 4 CNN focused on a human rights symposium the day before the U.N. special session began, including an interview with symposium sponsor Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Womens Global Leadership. It described the Center as "at the forefront of a worldwide movement to end abuse like domestic violence, genital circumcision, and bride burning." The piece included an interview with Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, who said that the "few that don't want progress are very effective, and that's a problem."
June 6 and 7 stories provided general scenes from the conference, then zeroed in on issues including violence, sex trafficking, globalization, womens health, education, and the workplace. Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, and Lt. General Claudia Kennedy were featured. CNN.com posted a story on June 10 showing a table of "key points" from the outcome document and reporting on agreements the delegates reached, as well as the impasses. This and other online stories on Women 2000 can be found at http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/06/10/un.women.03/index.html.
On June 5, Lifetime Television for Women covered the conference with an emphasis on the Women 2000 Film Festival, showing several clips. A June 6 story outlined womens advances since Beijing and included quotes from Gertrude Mongella, former secretary of the U.N. World Conference on Women; Dr. Jane Smith, President and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women; Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY); and others. Another story that day covered domestic violence with an example of a woman whose boss and co-workers protected her from an abusive boyfriend. The full story is found at lifetimetv.com.
June 7s Lifetime report examined poverty and AIDS for women worldwide, and featured an interview with Donna Shalala. Finally, a story on June 8 interviewed members of Girls, Inc., at the conference. With Isabel Carter Stewart, the executive director, they discussed sexism in the world and in their own education.
On June 5, Oxygen Cable Network ran a story focusing on progress since Beijing, featuring Angela King talking about governments accountability and Jane Fonda saying she wanted to work toward peace. The June 6 report centered on Fonda, her participation in the Beijing and New York conferences, and her recent Nigerian girls documentary. The June 7 story discussed genital mutilation in Africa, giving a graphic description of the process. A second story on June 7 looked at the $6,000 discrepancy between mens and womens salaries and the high rate of violence and sexual assault against women. It cited the Society for Research and Womens Health report that drugs are usually tested on men rather than women. On June 8 Oxygen concentrated on the plight of women in Afghanistan, where women trying to flee Islamic extremism are often killed. On June 9, Oxygen returned viewers to Jane Fonda and her issues of female education and sexual equality in Nigeria.
COVERAGE DURING THE SPECIAL SESSION: REGULAR NEWS COVERAGE
Most news outlets featured the conference, usually in one story about the opening and the background of the Platform for Action, then with another on struggles between conservatives and progressives, or a wrap-up piece, or both.
NBC Nightly News June 5 did a short background piece on the conference and included a soundbite from Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the work that remains to be done on violence.
CBS broadcast a story about Iranian womens "small steps toward equality," on June 4. The piece portrayed the nation as resisting womens equality in part by making women wear the head-to-foot black chador. One Iranian man said, "This is a religion. We cannot change it." The piece emphasized how the younger generation is pushing the limits. An unidentified woman said many young women show a glimpse of jeans or sneakers under their black chador and go to parties with men. The piece concluded, "Iranian women are settling for evolution rather than revolution."
On June 5, opening day of the conference, CBS Morning News interviewed Angela King and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala on goals of the conference and the 12 areas of concern. King explained that non-governmental organizations and womens groups have a powerful influence in the effort to achieve gender equality. Shalala focused on the U.S. agenda, explaining that "raising womens education and womens health around the world is in our self-interest, not simply because markets will open up. Its in our moral interest as a major leader in the world."
Other broadcast and cable coverage of Women 2000 included MSNBC Cable, FOX News, "Good Morning America" (ABC), and daily live two-hour talk shows by Wisconsin Public Radio.
Newspaper and Wire Reports:
The Christian Science Monitor piece on June 8 focused on violence against women: "The subjects of discussion are dark, and often dire. Honor killings. Rape. Domestic violence. Forced marriage. Dismal pay. But the confidence and energy exuded by some 10,000 women gathered at the U.N. this week is palpable." As an example of victories, the article said, "women advocacy organizations successfully lobbied in 1998 for the inclusion of rape as a crime against humanity in the statute for an international criminal court." A June 12 article focused on a peace symposium and reported, "From Colombia to Russia, virtually every conflict zone has a growing movement of mothers fighting against war." (The story is available at http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/2000/06/12/index.html.)
The Chicago Tribune ran a June 9 article enumerating abuses that have not improved since Beijing, such as trafficking in sex, slave labor and genital mutilation. The story emphasized the frustration of the conferences participants at the "tedious process of drafting a unified plan of action" and spoke of the "difficult struggle" with language and with government implementation
A June 9 Washington Post story reported that only eight countries have lived up to the commitment made by governments in Beijing to increase womens share of parliamentary positions to 30 percent. Mu Sochua, head of the Cambodian ministry of womens and veterans affairs, said she hoped to find a new generation of female politicians before her nations first election in 30 years. This story is online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25927-2000Jun8.html.
Another Post story on June 10 reported on the dispute over womens sexual and reproductive rights that delayed the final agreement. Francoise Gerard, a public health expert for the International Womens Health Coalition, explained, "We want full and equal access of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health education and services, while the conservatives position is that adolescents should just say no." The agreement reached "calls for the eradication of harmful customary or traditional practices" against women. This story can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30640-2000Jun9.html. A second June 10 Post story elaborated on the progress women have made in increasing their participation in national parliaments since Beijing. This story is available online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33011-2000Jun10.html.
The New York City Village Voice ran an introductory piece on June 6 that described the upcoming conference, stressed the important role of NGOs, and listed several NGO-sponsored events as "Highlights from Beijing+5." They included the human rights symposium, the Women 2000 Film Festival, and a performance called "Women Cant Wait" by Equality Now and Sarah Jones.
In a June 10 story, Reuters reported that at the start of the Women 2000 conference, some participants were worried that the "final outcome might be "Beijing-Minus-Five"a retreat from bold goals set forth after the massive China conference in 1995." A Los Angeles Times story on June 6 similarly reported that Amnesty International Secretary-General Pierre Sane accused Algeria, Libya, Pakistan and the Vatican of playing "a very destructive role" in negotiations on a forward-looking document, as they had in Beijing. However, Reuters quoted a U.S. official who said gains were made on violence against women and "health provisions." The Reuters story is available at http://www.desnews.com/cgi-bin/libstory_reg?dn00&0006120128.
The Buffalo News ran a June 3 article on an economic report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), which "points out that in an era of shrinking government budgets, corporations are having a greater impact on the lives of women" and "Globalization intensifies some of the existing inequalities and insecurities for poor women."
The Washington Times focused on sex workers in a front-page June 7 article, "U.S. Seeks Softer Stance On Hookers; Clinton-Led Agenda Weakens Porn Curb." A June 9 piece, "U.S. Move Regarding Sex Trade Draws Ire," is available online at http://www.washtimes.com/national/default-20006923746.htm. A June 12 article, "Feminist Proposals Routed At Conference" (available at http://www.washtimes.com/national/default-200061222282.htm), quoted Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute in New York, and stated, "Conservative nations routed liberal and radical feminists at the finale of a U.N. special session on women's rights over the weekend, forcing Western powers to drop homosexual rights, sex rights for children and promotion of abortion from a new five-year U.N. agenda for women's advancement."
However, the Washington Times final story also reported that the session "ended with the adoption of a document reiterating, among other things, that better education and health care are key to improving women's lives. It also called for universal primary and secondary education for boys and girls."
A June 12 Newsweek International story reported that since Beijing, women across the Arab world have become better educated, more aware of their rights and readier to use them. Last year Qatari women gained the right to vote; some even ran for office, though none won.
Newsweeks June 19 interview with Nana Konadu Rawlings, the first lady of Ghana and founder of the 31 December Womens Movement, quoted Rawlings as saying, "It is clear that if a country's women are empowered, then the economic indices also are moving up, because it is the women who take care of their children, health, [and] education. If you leave the women far behind, no matter how high you push the men up, the indices will remain at the bottom." The interview ("Raising Womens Voices") is available at http://newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/int/wa/a20967-2000jun11.htm
The Village Voice ran four articles about Women 2000 in its June 20 edition. One focused on Linda Tarr-Whelan, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, and the "fight to expand feminist gains at the U.N.s special session on women." Tarr-Whelan was quoted as saying, "Women's rights have moved into the mainstream of government foreign policy and we have to be sure to keep it there." She credited the "strength of the international women's movement, particularly the NGOs" with advancing womens rights.
Other Village Voice articles on June 20 focused on young women at the conference; a feminist panel on the global economy, which discussed the ways globalization has "aggravated inequalities for women"; and the way the conference encouraged women to embrace technology by "offering discussions that ranged from women's role in the new economy to ways technology can help the world's poorest women get small bank loans." (The Village Voice coverage can be found at http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0022/gonnerman.shtml.)
In its June 26 edition, The Nation reported, "If at Beijing the dominant mood was one of excitement at the prospects for mainstreaming global feminism, in New York it's mostly wariness." The story addressed indicators of progress and lack thereof on womens rights, then focused on the struggle between the Vatican and those opposing its observer status: "What can you do? Join the 541 women's and human rights groups that support the See Change campaign of Catholics for a Free Choice. The Catholic Church should be welcome to apply for NGO status and lobby to its heart's content but not to sit at the negotiating table and endlessly stall and shred the delicate consensus process."
EDITORIALS AND OPINION ARTICLES
Many news outlets took a stand on the negotiations or ran columns on the issues. The first such editorial in the June 3 New York Times said the Beijing conference "established concrete targets" and "set timetables for measuring progress," but concluded that "most of what governments call action is still just lofty talk" because of cultural resistance, financial constraints, and a refusal to give priority to womens issues. The editorial pointed to a 1998 WEDO survey that found "most of the governments represented at Beijing had drawn up plans to keep their promises, and 64 countries had changed laws." It credited "growth of local womens groups" with bringing about these changes.
On June 6, The Christian Science Monitor ran an editorial on the clashes between religious factions at the conference: "Clearly, many practices that restrict women, often tied to religious traditions, will have to give way before the inexorable rightness of affording half the human race a wider path toward self-realization. But it would be wrong to assume that a fuller recognition of women's rights is necessarily at odds with religion. Enlightened religious thinking, in fact, undergirds the push for greater rights," the editorial said.
A June 7St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial supported the Beijing Platforms goals: "The Chinese have a saying: Women hold up half the sky. A reaffirmation of the Beijing agenda will ensure that women get the help they deserve to do their part well." A June 8 Newsday editorial quoted Monique Widyono of Equality Now, who asked, "why in the year 2000 are we still negotiating over the need to eliminate discriminatory laws?"
The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA) June 8 editorial answered its own question, "So what difference can thousands of people coming together to support a women's agenda make?" with "Plenty." It said, "Some astonishing change has occurred in the undeveloped world, where women's lives are the most wretched." It quoted a leader from Zimbabwe who said, "Beijing was a catalyst for a whole lot of things. Look at somewhere like Namibia, which now has 44 percent women in the local government system."
A Cox News Service editorial ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 8 with this message: "Giving educational opportunity to girls and women has proven to be the key to lifting living standards and strengthening families. And that includes sex education for young girls." The editorial noted that the Vatican and "some conservative Muslim nations" tried to remove the "crucial landmark declaration that women have sexual rights independent of men." The Baltimore Sun June 10 editorial also focused on education as the best way to eliminate obstacles for women and girls.
The Boston Globe ran two commentaries. The first was an op-ed by Judy Collins on June 9, in which the famous singer noted "women are not only on the agenda, we have changed the agenda we have connected to one another across lines of culture, race, income and language." The op-ed commented on the victories of recognizing violence against women as a violation of human rights and the success of micro-credit loan programs, but warned "our very real gains have produced a strong backlash by patriarchal and fundamentalist forces worldwide."
In the June 15 Boston Globe column "The Scorecard for Womens Rights," Globe columnist Ellen Goodman asked, "do we assess this half-decade of international womens rights as half-full or half-empty?" Quoting Charlotte Bunch, Goodman said the half-full argument is that "honor killings, bride burnings, and female genital mutilation are no longer regarded as cultural matters but human rights abuses " The half-empty argument, offering the suffrage struggles of women in Kuwait as an example, is that "the world has barely begun to implement the commitments made in Beijing." Goodmans piece also ran in papers such as the Dayton Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, and the Orlando Sentinel.
Knight-Ridder news service on June 10 ran a piece by Anika Rahman of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy stressing the importance of womens reproductive rights: "More than one-third of women of reproductive age in low and middle-income countries do not have access to modern, safe and acceptable family planning methods pregnancy-related causes kill 585,000 women annually, and unsafe abortions result in nearly 80,000 deaths each year."
In her June 12 Scripps Howard News Service piece, "Much Carping, Few Solutions," Bonnie Erbe, host of the PBS program "To the Contrary," wrote, "Instead of just battling the progress liberal groups are proposing, why aren't Libya, Sudan, the Vatican, et al., coming up with counterproposals on how to lift women out of poverty and end the practice of forced marriage? [A]t least the progressive delegates offered solutions." She points to the struggle between the Vatican and Catholics for a Free Choice as one where dialogue rather than "carping" would be useful.
The News & Record (Greensboro, NC) ran a negative editorial on June 15 titled, "Feminists Forced Extremist Agenda at U.N. Conference." It indicated that positive AP coverage of Women 2000 was misleading, and claimed Western womens efforts "were aimed at diminishing family/parental control and morality in favor of a government-knows-best policy." It concluded, "Countries supporting families and the traditional values of their cultures couldn't reverse the extremism voted in at the original Beijing conference in 1995. Thankfully, this time their convictions did prevent more anti-family, anti-life and truly anti-woman agendas from being forced upon unwilling nations and unsuspecting citizens."
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune June 13 editorial, "Beijing + 5: Some Progress for Women, More Needed" took a different position: "Delegates smartly defeated attempts to reverse some gains outlined in the Beijing agreement. They preserved the goal that says women should make choices about their own sexuality -- despite formidable challenges from social and religious conservatives " This is available at http://www.startribune.com/stOnLine/cgi-bin/article?thisSlug=ED13A&date=13-Jun-2000.
Similarly, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial, "Updating Womens Rights" (June 15) found that in spite of a "strong backlash," the conference was a success for proponents of womens rights: "Conservative opponents from orthodox religious groups and nations tried but failed to roll back a woman's right to make decisions about her own body..." The editorial is available at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/06/15/ED99689.DTL.
The Record (NJ) ran a column on June 18 by Angela King, who wrote, "After four world conferences on women, and buttressed by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women the legal framework supporting women's rights is now in place."
The above analysis was written by Jenesse Miller and Kathy Bonk at the Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202/326-8700.