Education And Debate

Beijing diary: ten days at the women's conference

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 14 October 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1010
  1. Naomi Crafta
  1. aBMJ, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR

    In the biggest ever United Nations conference, delegates from 180 countries met in Beijing last month for the fourth world conference on women. In the 20 years since the first UN conference on women, the campaign for equality between men and women has witnessed momentous changes and undeniable advances. To date, 139 member states have now signed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted by the UN general assembly in 1979. In many countries, women are developing their professional careers and challenging the traditional roles that have been the norm for many years. Progress has been rapid, but inequality remains and the UN recently identified health as one of the areas that needs more attention. The UN conference in Beijing (and the parallel meeting organised by the non-government organisations which was held in Huairou, an hour away from Beijing) aimed to re-examine the issues and to develop a plan of action for the future.

    Friday 1 September

    I arrive in Beijing for the world conference on women, due to start on Monday. At 9 pm I catch a taxi to the hotel where I have a confirmed booking. When the hotel manager calls the police and takes my passport away I realise I might have a problem. Apparently, as a journalist I am allowed to stay only in designated hotels, and this is not one of them.

    At midnight I am sent to the Workers' Stadium to find another hotel. No one speaks much English, but after one look at my visa I am ushered into another taxi, which drives to the Beijing recreation centre. The receptionist looks puzzled and gets out her English-Chinese dictionary. Several hours later I unpack my bags in a half empty journalists' hotel. Two weeks ago the China Organising Committee had told …

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