Updated: Oct 13, 2020
By Ameena Zia
Photo: Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995
Is motherhood political? It seems more reasonable to ask, How is it not? Because, of course, every act of mothering has a political dimension. And every political act impacts every single mother, because every act shapes the world in which our children live.” -Benazir Bhutto.
I was in grade school when the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 passed the Beijing Declaration and placed gender at the center of the global development agenda. I remember it because my ami jaan (grandmother) was visiting us in North Carolina when she told me that Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had called for the adoption of the Beijing Declaration. Bhutto, a woman had visited St. Louis, and had met with diaspora members including my grandmother and stressed the importance of her leadership style shaped by her gender in navigating the world of politics.
As my education progressed my research interests gravitated towards women’s empowerment and leadership. A freshman in college at East Carolina University, I started an Amnesty International Chapter and which was spurred by Hillary Clinton’s speech at the historic 1995 Fourth World Conference, where she stated that “women’s rights are human rights.” Journeying through student leadership programs, establishing a community organization to help the African American community, and serving as an inclusive leader fulfilled my desire of further championing for the rights of community members, particularly women and girls.
In 2018, I was invited to moderate a high-level event at the UN on women’s leadership, attended by female ministers and ambassadors from around the globe. Dialogue ranged from women’s access to public space, to political gatekeeping, and the inclusion of women in decision making spheres. Although strides have been made towards the established agenda of the Beijing Declaration, much work still needs to be done and attention given as women continue to navigate leadership through multiple roles.
Today, as we reflect on 25 years of the adoption of the #BeijingDeclaration, I realize we still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that we continue to foster leadership for girls and avenues of participation in public spaces for women. As a daughter, as a mother, or simply as a woman, our integral role demands that our voices are also included in decision making, at all levels. In this regard, our voices must be political.
How can they not?
About the author: Ameena serves as an NGO UN Representative at the Economic and Social Affairs Committee (ECOSOC) and is the Founder of Blue Ridge Consulting, a firm specializing in social impact in the development field for non-profit organizations and corporations. Ameena received her Ph.D. in Political Science with a focus on Political Economy and Comparative Politics and her M.A. in Political Science from the University of Missouri St. Louis, and an M.S. in Criminal Justice and B.A. in Political Science from East Carolina University. She is a three-time recipient of the NYC Mayoral Service award from Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for her strategy consulting work. As an Adjunct Professor at the City University of New York and Philadelphia University, Ameena focused on sustainable development, feminist theory, social change, social stratification, and criminal justice.