Work on the Platform for the Fourth World Conference on Women continued all night on Thursday, as exhausted delegates struggled with the final thorny issues. Friday’s closing events lifted the delegates’ spirits, particularly Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland’s stirring speech, and Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s bold rejection of Vatican attacks on family planning programs.
Brundtland delivered a ringing call to action on behalf of women. Topping her now legendary address to the Population Conference at Cairo last year, she urged activism at every level.
“We now need a tidal change – Women will no longer accept the role as second-rate citizens.”
Referring to the crushing attempts of Chinese security to control the Beijing conference and its feisty women, Brundtland asked what the ultimate meaning of the Beijing Conference would be.
“The views expressed here – and the news which escaped from here – will irrevocably shape world opinion. The story of Beijing cannot be untold. What will be remembered? Zealous security? . . .Yes, but such practices cannot, and will not, long endure.
“Let us count our strategic victories, not the tactical defeats. What we have achieved is to unbracket the lives of girls and women.
“We cannot maintain the illusion that someone else is going to do the job and establish equality with men. Women, and men working with us, men who understand, we all must fight for that freedom.
“All history of liberation struggles tells us that life, freedom, equality and opportunity have never been given. They have always been taken.”
The President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, also addressed the closing sessions. Voicing strong support for the advancement of women, President Fujimori agreed the “trustworthy studies state that investing in women is the most rational and profitable way to reduce poverty and improve social conditions.
“I believe that when designing state policies women must be included as a main agent of development.”
Referring to the conflict between the Peruvian government’s family planning programs and the Catholic Church, Fujimori condemned the Catholic hierarchy as “reacting in a disproportionate manner.”
Responding to the charges that Peruvian family planning programs which allow voluntary vasectomies and tubal ligations constitute “mutilations” and represent the “powers of darkness”, Fujimori defended his government’s policies.
“There are institutions and forces that resist open and rational discussions on this issue. Of course, this is not a call to create blocs of nations or States to rise against the Vatican. In this time and age, an open debate cannot be interpreted as a declaration of war.
“Peruvian women are not going to remain confined or constrained by the intransigence of ultraconservative mentalities that pretend to turn into a dogma their incapacity to accept social change.”