THE EARTH TIMES
SEPTEMBER 28, 1995
CONVERSATION WITH GERTRUDE MONGELLA
‘My next 50 years is committed to women’
BY ASHALI VARMA
On her first day back at work after the Beijing Conference, Gertrude Mongella, Secretary General of the Fourth World Conference on Women spoke about the challenges and achievements of what is being hailed as the biggest United Nations Conference ever.
“I think the biggest challenge was to satisfy the expectations people had of this Conference,” Mongella said in an interview with The Earth Times. “I used to wonder if the results would satisfy the women and the people who had worked so hard for it. People were ready for a change and prepared to look at women’s issues positively. I think the document was very strong and this really helped to bring about a consensus.”
Mongella, looking a bit tired but spirited nevertheless, spoke about the issues and what the world was ready for. About the debate on “sexual orientation” she said that the world was not ready for the language at this point but on the question of inheritance rights for women and equality there were major gains made.
“Many governments have made specific commitments on this issue and are looking at their laws. There was also strong support for the advancement of women in the areas of education, health and economic opportunity,” said Mongella, adding, “Developing countries are also looking at ways to channel their resources for the advancement of women.”
Mongella said her vision was to have a conference, which gained strength from diversity and this is what happened at Beijing. The fact that the document was adopted in time with the support of the nations of the world with their strong traditions and cultures was “historic” and proved that government were ready to commit to the issues.
Mongella spoke about the process and the fact that in the two years preceding the Conference she travelled to many countries and spoke to government leaders, the media and NGOs in an effort to reach out to people and make them a part of the process. “The Platform for Action and the Conference belongs to the world and everyone had a part to play in it,” said Mongella.
“When they gave me a standing ovation at the end, I thought of the many people who will never be known but were instrumental in contributing to the successful outcome of the Conference, and I received the ovation on their behalf,” said Mongella.
On the question of implementation, Mongella said, “It is my sincere wish that the United Nations, despite the economic constraints it is facing now, should consider a strong follow up. It has to keep the agenda alive internationally.”
She also spoke about the need to find a way for NGOs to be linked internationally to be more effective. “They should be able to communicate and monitor implementation both nationally and internationally. I see them as important actors as well as advocates of the Platform for Action,” said Mongella.
Regarding her own plans for the future, Mongella smiled and said, “Wherever I am, I am committed to follow up on the implementation process. My next 50 years is committed to the
to the Program for Action and to women.”