Twenty-five years ago, I was fortunate to serve as the emcee for the opening ceremony of the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. I was overwhelmed by the lasting hail from thousands of attendees present at the People’s Hall, when I simply said “Ladies, wherever you come from, here we are in Beijing.” Outside of the halls of official meetings, it was an overwhelming experience for the local Chinese, too, when people first heard of such terms as feminism, NGO, and when Hillary Clinton said, “Women’s rights are human rights.”
Yang Lan as Emcee at the 1995 Beijing Conference
History doesn’t promise a linear development. The Platform for Action was adopted by 189 countries as the strongest international consensus on gender equality and the rights of girls and women. But 25 years later, women across the world still face so much injustice and inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified the existing gender inequality of jobs, income, health access and domestic safety, etc. The world is in an accelerated transformation by disruptive digital and technological development, putting many low-skilled women to a more disadvantaged position.
Education is a pillar of women’s empowerment, making us stronger and more resilient when facing these challenges. While education for girls has improved worldwide during the past two decades, continued education for adult women still falls behind. In an era of lifelong learning, women need more knowledge and skills to strengthen their positions at the workplace, in start-up businesses, in work-life balance and in public advocacy. That’s why I’m committed to providing quality educational content and workshops for women through both online and off-line services. Surveys show that more than 75% of women are willing to invest into their own future and the future of their families by paying for continued education. They learn better together, forming inspiring and supportive communities. These learning platforms also provide a stage for women to tell their stories, voice their opinions, challenge stereotypes, and demand justice.
When we say “we can,” it means both determination and capability. Equality is not something that is bestowed to us. We need to fight for it, and claim it.
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InfluencHER: Women’s Rights are Human Rights – 25 Years Later