By Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, Fall 2009
The year, 2010, marks the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China in September 1995. It was a milestone event that caught the world’s attention. For the community of 189 nations that convened and adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, it was a time of commitments to advance the status of women as a means towards “equality, development and peace.” For the 50,000 women who gathered there, and for millions of women and their organizations around the world, it was a transformative event. It signaled solidarity for a worldwide movement for women’s empowerment and gender equality. The women’s movement is strong and its goals are attainable, yet 15 years after the Beijing Conference, the world is not on track to realize women’s empowerment. In recognition of the accomplishments that have been made and the important work that has yet to be done, Vital Voices Global Partnership teamed up with New York University’s La Pietra Dialogues to convene Breakthrough: Overcoming the Obstacles to Equality, Development and Peace, a global gathering of international thought leaders and grassroots activists. From November 1-2, 2009, 50 international leaders from the public and private sector engaged in a dynamic working session to define the systemic challenges to women’s full and equal participation in society. To act on the discussion, Vital Voices, New York University Florence and the dedicated group of individuals present at the working session established the La Pietra Coalition to Advance Women and the World. To date the Coalition boasts the membership of a diverse set of committed leaders from all over the world who have a wide range knowledge and expertise to apply to these issues. To empower women and improve our world, it will take a societal shift from indifference, vague regret and outright opposition to a sense of urgency and commitment. Empowerment must not be seen as a matter of women versus men, but as a matter of better outcomes for all. With plans to gather at NYU’s Villa La Pietra again in the Fall of 2010, the coalition looks forward to taking action for equality in the months and years ahead.