Beijing '95Beijing Button

Browse photos, read articles, and see political pins from the 1995 Beijing Women's Conference.

The Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, capital of the People's Republic of China, from September 4 through 15 with representatives from 189 governments. As was custom, there was a parallel conference of Non-Governmental Organizations open to anyone who could get a visa and housing. The NGO Forum was held from August 30 through September 8, at Huairou, 35 miles from Beijing. Each conference had its own official opening ceremonies and its own events. Together and separately the two conferences were the largest ever sponsored by the United Nations.

The Hauirou conference center was hastily cobbled together from a couple schools and surrounding buildings on the edge of a small town that were renamed for the occasion. Some new buildings were started but not completed in time for the NGO Forum. Many tents were erected to accommodate all the activities scheduled for over 30,000 members of the press and public. Despite problems with bad weather, insufficient housing, and some governmental repression, most of those attending the numerous workshops, exhibits, booths, demonstrations, dancing, speeches, speak-outs and other activities had a wonderful time.

The official UN Conference took place in more luxurious accommodations in central Beijing. Although it too had panels on varied topics, its primary task was to produce a Declaration and Platform for Action. The 130 page document was not written overnight; most of the language had been agreed on beforehand. Nonetheless, there were some acrimonious conflicts over words. Sex, specifically lesbian rights and abortion, was the hot topic. Sex created some strange alliances; Catholic countries and Islamic fundamentalists agreed that they didn't like a lot of the language in the final document.

When everyone went home what was left were the words. The Fourth World Conference forced the world's governments to write extensive reports on the status of women. It raised consciousness in international agencies about the importance of a "gender perspective," and it gave feminists all over the world ammunition for the battles they had yet to fight at home.

Photos of the Beijing '95 Womens Conference by Jo Freeman

Please click on thumbnails to view the complete image

The NGO Forum

Bejing 95 Opening Bejing 95 Opening Bejing 95 Opening
NGO Opening Ceremony

Security Metal Detector
One of several entrances to the NGO Forum. Every entrance had a metal detector. Most of them were turned off.

Workshop The Willows
Those late for a crowded workshop try to avoid the mud. Hastily constructed, the Huairou campus had many unfinished buildings. This one was called "the Willows."

Every continent had its own tent.

Africa Tent South America
Africa South America

Some constituencies also had their own tents.

Grassroots Tent Grassroots Tent

The Grass Roots tent

 Tibetan tent T-shirts
The unofficial Tibetan tent was off the beaten track T-shirts went for $1. This one says "We welcome Women's Liberation and Renounce Permissiveness"

Two of many demonstrations during the NGO forum



Women's Web Winnie Mandela
Women's web winds its way through the campus. Winnie Mandela speaks in the Africa tent.

Meeting Notices Women brought news of their problems
Meeting notices were posted everywhere, including the official designation of places of religious worship.

Women brought news of their problems at home.
Shirley Shelton Hillary Clinton
Shirley Staten calms the crowd waiting for Hillary Hillary speaks to those attending the NGO Forum who could get into a local movie theater, renamed the International Conference Center.

The official Fourth World
Conference on Women

Great Hall of the People Bella Abzug
Entering the Great Hall of the People for the opening ceremony of the official conference

Bella Abzug arrives at the Great Hall.
Marching Band Dancer
Entertainment at opening ceremony

Sara Kovenor and Betty Friedan Betty Shabazz
Sara Kovenor and Betty Friedan of New York listen to Press Briefing

As did Betty Shabazz, also of New York
Gertrude Mongella Ziang Jemin
Gertrude Mongella, Secretary-General of the FWCW and her husband sit in the front row after she addressed the delegates at the opening ceremony.

Ziang Jemin, President of the People's Republic of China, also addressed the delegates and their friends.
 Official meeting  Press briefing
Official meeting of the Fourth World Conference on Women

Press briefing
Family values panel Platform debates
Family values panel at 4WCW Those monitoring the debates over language in the Platform kept score and made reports to the press every morning.

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