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Uneven Progress: The Aging of the Beijing Declaration

“Over the last two decades, there has been uneven progress towards gender equality.” -The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Turns 20, UN Women [1]

This “uneven progress,” refers to the initiative outlined in the Beijing Declaration, a document that launched the beginning of the women’s equality movement across the globe. Since its inception, there has been dissatisfaction towards issues like healthcare. However, there also has been massive headway towards issues like domestic violence.

General Dissatisfaction

The general dissatisfaction towards the Beijing Declaration stems from its established goals for healthcare. The Declaration states that “health problems and injuries are preventable through improved access to adequate health-care services.” [4] Adequate health services include care related to reproductive rights and family planning. Unfortunately, the access to health services has not improved as much as projected.

The 2015 consensus states there is a persistent lack of proper healthcare for lower-income rural women. Global trends have shown that there is a disparity in health services across the globe. For example, the percentages of births that have been delivered by skilled health personnel for the rich and poor vary widely in countries. Armenia shows little variation in the access to skilled health personnel between these groups. However, countries such as Madagascar show much more variation. (FIGURE 2)


Furthermore, there is a correlation between economic disparity for rural women and access to healthcare. To quantify, “ in 2012, 40 million births in developing regions were not attended by skilled health personnel, and over 32 million of those births occurred in rural areas.” [1]. This indicates that poor rural women have the highest health risk during deliveries. Other healthcare services, such as emergency obstetric care services and denial of sexual and reproductive health, also contribute to the health risks for poor rural women. 2018 marks a time where access to proper healthcare for these women is at an all-time low.

Future Resolutions

There is hope though for the objectives that were outlined in the Beijing Declaration. The 20th anniversary also marked the admittance that the declaration's objectives were “ambitious,” “but over time and with the accumulating energy of new generations, they are within reach.” [2] This is true for rural women who have faced a crisis. Progress in healthcare and economic empowerment are the forefront of the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s agenda. They plan to draw attention to activism that benefits this population.

Rural Farm in India, Photo by Megha Patel

As International Women’s Day approaches, UN Women is placing emphasis on economic empowerment and healthcare of rural women. The goal now is to ensure that there are opportunities for acceptable living standards as well as access to proper healthcare, including sexual reproductive health. Rural and impoverished women have been made a priority in the next coming years.

Current Successes

There have been visible movements in some of the issues addressed in the Beijing Declaration, particularly violence against impoverished women. One of the aims was to “encourage research into the causes, nature, seriousness and consequences of violence against women“ [5]. This goal has seen some major progress. Over the course of the last 22 years, there has been extensive research and media attention given to the issue.

There has been headway in violence against women through the use of social media. According to UN Women, “Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women has captured headlines, and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change.” [3]. Hashtags, such as #MeToo, have been rampant on social media. This also sheds light on the issues facing rural women. Increased economic empowerment in countries also correlates to decreased violence against women.

The Bigger Picture

There has been a disappointing, but hopeful reach for global empowerment for women in the future. The predicted change outlined in the Beijing Declaration has not been met. The quality of healthcare to impoverished rural women needs to be improved. However, there has been recognition for the need to improve the lives of these women. By focusing on this need, reachable milestones will be established.

There is also much to be celebrated for issues like violence against women. 2017 marks the year that violence against women, including sexual assault and harassment, has been recognized by the public. There is a push for better social practices and higher penalties for committing this violence. By drawing attention to violence against women, the Beijing Declaration has not fully failed at its 22nd-year mark. Overall, for International Women’s Day in 2018, there is still plenty to celebrate.


  1. "The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Turns 20 .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform." United Nations. Accessed February 13, 2018.

  2. "The Beijing Platform for Action: inspiration then and now ." UN Women. Accessed February 13, 2018.

  3. "International Women's Day 2018." UN Women. Accessed February 13, 2018.

  4. "Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995." United Nations. Accessed February 13, 2018.

  5. The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action: Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, 4-15 September 1995. New York: Department of Public Information, United Nations, 199

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