From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 04 May 1996 20:41:33


                     AT GLOBAL WOMEN'S FORUM 
                         by Julian Shipp 
BEIJING--Unanimously describing their experience as "well worth it," 
several members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) braved the logistical 
and natural challenges that have become synonymous with the 
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Forum to hear First Lady Hillary Rodham 
Clinton speak Sept. 6 to a standing-room-only crowd at Huairou. 
     Clinton did not speak very long, said Allen H. Neuharth, founder of 
"USA TODAY" and chair of The Freedom Foundation, during a press conference, 
but she used her time to support the international feminist movement and 
the nearly 40,000 Forum participants. 
     Presbyterians interviewed by the Presbyterian News Service who were 
able to hear the First Lady's brief remarks included Yvonne Mathews of 
Omaha, Neb.; Judith Henderson of Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery in Oklahoma; 
and Connie Fraser of Seattle. 
     Fraser said Clinton emphasized the importance of the NGO participants 
in Huairou, since their work will be used to help draft the United Nations' 
Fourth World Conference on Women Platform for Action.  Fraser said Clinton 
also commended Forum participants with disabilities who were especially 
inconvenienced. Rain again fell at the Forum site Sept. 6, complicating 
mobility in and out of the area. 
     According to Henderson, Clinton said it is also important to remember 
the status of the girl child, one of the areas delegates to the U.N. 
gathering will examine during their Sept. 4-15 conference in Beijing.  
     "Clinton said that 30 years ago we didn't even know what an NGO was," 
Henderson said. "But women were still there working for a common cause. 
Clinton said the NGOs will hold the governments accountable for the action 
taken here at this Forum and that the language must be simple, condensed to 
a single page, so that all women can understand." 
     "I was impressed with what she said," Mathews said. 
     But getting into the hall to see the First Lady was no small feat. 
Thousands of Forum participants huddled outside in a sea of umbrellas 
singing songs of unity while waiting to be screened by Chinese security 
officers under the watchful eye of U.S. Secret Service agents. 
     Fraser said that from her vantage point outside the Willow Recreation 
Club plenary hall, the crowd of women and men began pushing and shoving as 
Chinese security officers and volunteers tried desperately to hold them 
     "All the time we were told to step back and [the Chinese authorities] 
were very upset," Fraser said. "We couldn't even get in the hall. We were 
in the smallway of the hallway."  
     Fraser said she was only able to get a glimpse of Clinton but was able 
to hear her speech by placing her ear against a wall in the corridor. 
     "The acoustics were good and clear," Fraser said. "I was proud of 
[Clinton]. She spoke really clear and well." 
     Another conference participant, author and feminist visionary Betty 
Friedan,  said Clinton's appearance at Huairou was important but should not 
overshadow the significance of nearly 40,000 women from all over the world 
who have come together to realize the objectives of  equality, development, 
and peace. 
     "I think that Hillary Clinton's speech and the presence of an 
unprecedented number of people at Huairou are the reality of this meeting," 
Friedan said. 
     The 35-member PC(USA) group will depart Sept. 7 for Nanjing, China, 
where they will continue their travel/study program. 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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