From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 09:00:12


                         by Julian Shipp 
BEIJING--The United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women was kicked 
off Sept. 4 at China's Great Hall of the People, leaving thousands of 
delegates from 180 countries breathless over the menagerie of dancers, 
musicians, vocalists, martial artists and other entertainers who performed 
and eager to address key issues. 
     Presbyterians attending the meetings as observers include the Rev. 
Susan H. Craig of Louisville, Ky.; Elenora Giddings-Ivory of Washington, 
D.C.; Letitia Campbell of Mobile, Ala.; Helena Lee of Coastal Carolina 
Presbytery in N.C.; Debra Jones of Elizabeth Presbytery in N.J.; and 
Melissa Gillis of New York City. The observers will monitor the conference 
proceedings and report to the church their findings. 
     During the Sept. 4-15 consultation, billed as the largest of its kind 
in U.N. history, participants will assess how women's lives have changed 
over the past decade and take steps to keep issues of concern to women high 
on the international agenda. 
     A key goal of the conference is the adoption of the "Platform for 
Action," a document that addresses 12 critical areas of concern identified 
as obstacles to the advancement of women. 
     Special dignitaries at the opening ceremony included Madame Huang 
Qizao, vice chairperson of the China Organizing Committee. Also present was 
a special emissary for U.N. secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who 
was unable to attend the program. 
     The remarks of Gertrude Mongella, secretary-general of the Fourth 
World Conference on Women, brought the throng of men and women packed in 
the auditorium to their feet. Mongella, an educator, politician and 
diplomat from the Republic of Tanzania, said conference participants are 
"undertaking an historic moment that is characterized by unprecedented 
     "The aim of the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women is to 
capitalize on the strength and resources of women to share the world's 
resources," Mongella said. "This is not about business as usual." 
     With an emphasis on action for equality, development and peace, 
delegates have their work cut out for them as they address global problems 
that affect women. 
     For example, according to the 1994 World Survey on the Role of Women 
in Development, approximately 500,000 women, nearly all in the developing 
world, die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every year. 
     And, according to the 1995 U.N. Human Development Report, out of 1.3 
billion people living in absolute poverty worldwide, more than 70 percent 
are women. 
     With compelling statistics like these, Mongella said, now is the time 
for action. 
     "The revolution has begun," Mongella said. "There is no turning back." 
     Energy levels were kept high by a rousing selection from Beethoven's 
Symphony No. 9, "Ode to Joy," by a joint chorus, orchestra, and band under 
the direction of Zheng Xiaoying, Beijing's first female symphony conductor. 
     Demonstrating incredible skill and flexibility, members of a 
children's martial arts group and an internationally acclaimed acrobatics 
team wowed the crowd with their high-powered stunts and theatrics. 
     Delegates were also treated to the visual as well as auditory feast of 
Beijing opera, its performers bedecked in gorgeous, colorful costumes and 
all the bells and whistles choreographers could muster. 
     The ceremony climaxed with a gigantic inflatable white dove flying 
slowly over the heads of onlookers clearly awed by the spectacle. 

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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