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Fairchild Gallery, Special Collections Gallery and Kerbs Exhibit Area
Women's Rights are Human Rights: The United States and the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women
The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, hosted in Beijing in 1995, was a watershed moment for global women’s rights. The biggest United Nations conference ever, it convened 5,000 official delegates representing almost every country in the world, along with thousands of NGO and media representatives. The Huairou Forum, a parallel meeting for civil society leaders, assembled 30,000 others.
The Beijing Conference electrified a generation of activists, catalyzed the creation of new women’s rights organizations, and adopted a Platform of Action that remains one of the most progressive international commitments for gender equality—launching a cascade of legal reforms across the globe. As then-First Lady Hillary Clinton declared in her historic speech, the conference affirmed “women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
Following the historic event, delegates “brought Beijing home,” running for office, drafting new legislation, creating regional networks, and demanding action from their own governments. Their efforts led to a proliferation of legislation on violence against women, the adoption of parliamentary gender quotas, and the creation of women’s ministries and bureaus. The conference also led to policy change in Washington, and its legacy can be seen in U.S. diplomacy, defense, and development efforts today.
This exhibition draws on never-before-published documents and photographs from the archives of Ambassador Melanne Verveer—the first Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, and Chief of Staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton—and other members of the U.S. delegation to the Beijing conference.