The UN Decade for Women : One Woman's
Personal Assessment

by Dr. K. Margaret Fulton

Troisième grande conclusion: la majorité des femmes présentes à Nairobi avaient l'impression de ne pas être adéquatement représentées par leur gouvernement. Ceci est vrai non seulement des femmes du continent nord-américain mais aussi de l'Afrique, de l'Amérique centrale, de l'Amérique latine, etc.

En conclusion, Margaret Fulton voit en Nairobi un renouveau, un engagement nouveau à faire "une révolution non violente, globale" d'où naîtra un monde meilleur pour tous les gens de la planète.


The world has now witnessed three major UN Conferences on Woman. These conferences have all been divided into two parts: the official government conference attended by official government delegates, and the second, the conference attended by delegates sponsored by non-governmental organizations. The NGO representation far outnumbers that of the official conference and to a great extent provides the real energy for the world women's reform movement. While it is important for national governments to adopt the UN Plan of Action, reforms, to be effective, must be translated into legislation by individual governments which in turn must be monitored and made to work by all women in their separate countries.

Canada as a nation probably has as good a record as most nations in this interactive system between official government and non-government organizations. While our government has been very supportive of these conferences, and while Canadian women have gained much from the UN Decade, we must never allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency or to believe that all our goals have been achieved. What the end of the Decade Conference in Nairobi signified most clearly was the need to renew all our commitment toward responsible reform, and to continue to demand of our government not only legislation, but also government leadership and action on all issues affecting the position of women in an increasingly global society.

Primarily, we should encourage the Canadian government to use its influence at the UN to guarantee at least three more such conferences until the year 2000. It would seem equally appropriate for Canada to past such a conference. The past

...we must never
allow ourselves to
be lulled into

decade has certainly raised consciousness about the position of women in the world, and the UN has indeed documented world wide discrimination against women. If Le Decade is expanded into a quarter century of focus on women, we may hope to see more positive strides made toward the elimination of much of the discrimination against women and thus move toward the development of a more human world order for all.

While it is easy to be cynical about the value of conferences of this type, it must also be acknowledged that the achievements of the Decade have been considerable.


In her excellent statistical study Women a world survey, (Washington, D.C., 1985) Ruth Leger Sivard documents the changes achieved in the status of women since World War II. While the greatest gains have been made in the field of education, the comparisons between male education and female points to a deplorable and unacceptable gender gap. All the other major issues of health, family life, economics, work, politics and religion will not change unless women receive basic education. Yvette Rudy from France quoted in Sivard's book sums up the situation very clearly:

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