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National NOW Times >> Winter, 2001 >> Article

World's Women to U.N. - We've Only Just Begun

by Karen Johnson

The World March of Women that took place in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15, 2000, was just the beginning of a series of events calling for a safer and more equal world for women.

On Oct. 16, 2000, the day after the World March in D.C., an international delegation met with the president of the World Bank (WB), James Wolfensohn, and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Horst Kohler.

Speaking from experience, the delegates identified WB and IMF policies and globalization as a source of much misery for women and girls. Noting that of the six billion people on earth, four billion are currently living in poverty and 70 percent of the poor are female, the delegates called for a significant change in the way the WB and IMF do business.

In brief, the delegates demanded that the WB and IMF ensure: a) transparency (full disclosure) and accountability of international financial institutions; b) integration and application of the gender perspective in global economic policies; c) increased financial resources for women; d) cancellation of the debt of all Third World countries; and e) the end of structural adjustment programs (economic policies imposed on countries as a condition of loans by the IMF and WB) and their clones.

Until these changes occur, the World March delegates assured the WB and IMF leaders that activists will continue to peacefully denounce the harmful policies.

The following day, Oct. 17 (the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty), about 200 delegates representing the 159 countries that participated in the World March of Women, met with United Nations (U.N.) Deputy Secretary General Louise Ferchette and Assistant Secretary General Angela King to deliver the World March demands.

NOW Membership Vice President Karen Johnson was present at the meeting as delegates demanded from the U.N. and its member States concrete measures to eliminate poverty, eradicate violence against women and ensure equality between men and women. These measures include: observance of international law; recognition by all U.N. member States of the International Criminal Court; adherence to U.N. treaties by member States, without reservations; and respect for the rights of all women, regardless of their origin, sexual orientation, or social or cultural affiliation.

Just before the meeting, about 10,000 women (4,000 from countries other than the U.S. or Canada) gathered outside the U.N. and via a human chain passed from hand to hand a portion of the 4.7 million supportive signatures from women around the globe.

Some signatures were on postcards, others on petitions, some were transmitted electronically, others were written on cloth (signifying fabric used to shroud the dead) and still others on cardboard (representing material used to build shelters to live in Haiti or New York City).

The signatures were delivered to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as evidence of the solidarity of the world's women in their demands. After the passing of the signatures, the women then marched for two miles to Union Square and rallied.

The World March of Women delegates met again the next day, expressing the desire to continue working together to create a global feminist network.

This work includes advocating for full implementation of the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women. With more than 40,000 women in attendance, the Conference--held in Beijing, China, in 1995--was the largest U.N. conference of the 20th Century.

The Platform for Action commits 189 nations to carry out specific actions to end discrimination against women and girls. The Platform addresses 12 areas of concern: poverty, violence, education and training, health, armed conflict, the economy, decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, the environment and the girl-child.

After four consecutive days of action, the World March of Women delegates all recognized that they have only just begun.

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