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activists Bindu Dhaliwal and Denise Campbell

October 1, 1996

Bindu Dhaliwal and Denise Campbell joined 30,000 women and girls, and a few boys and men, at the NGO Forum on Women in Huairou, China from August 30 to September 8, 1995. Governments of the world have met, at the call of the United Nations, four times since International Women’s Year in 1975. Women’s organizations (in UN speak, non-governmental organizations or NGOs) from all over the world have met at the same place and time to pursue equality, development and peace. Governments, including Canada’s, committed once again to make profound changes for women. Denise and Bindu came home with their own idea and the energy to make it happen.

This is how Denise and Bindu describe their experience in this community of women for 10 days:

Here we discovered the true beauty and resilience of women’s spirits ... We learned that women, when united in the task of trying to improve women’s lives universally, can be a tremendous force to be reckoned with. It is here that we learned that our problems – be it racism, lack of access to education, economic or political power, genital mutilation, rape or environmental degradation – are common challenges for women in every part of the globe: they differ only in intensity. It is here that we learned the necessity of the diversity in women’s voices and in women’s solutions, and that we are not alone in our passions.

As observers at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Bindu and Denise watched 187 nations negotiate the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. At the core of these complex documents is agreement by governments to a fundamental principle that women have fought for – women’s rights are human rights. The Platform for Action names 12 critical areas of concern – poverty, education, health care, violence, militarization, economic structures, policies and resources, power and decision-making, mechanisms to promote women’s advancement, human rights, media, environment and the girl child. Governments committed to specific objectives and actions to be taken by them. (To find out more about the Fourth World Conference on Women, see the UN Development Programme link below.)

Denise and Bindu, both full-time university students working at The Students Commission, are producing a multimedia educational package, Challenge the Assumptions, for young people, especially young women. (To find out more about their project, see The Students Commission link below, then go to Young Women’s Guide Project in the index.)

Denise and Bindu met when they were 16 at a Canadian conference organized by The Students Commission. Bindu attends the University of Toronto, and Denise the University of Ottawa. In addition to the projects they have done together on education and anti-racism, each has been an active volunteer with other youth in her own community.

In Mississauga, Ontario, Bindu was a volunteer at a hospital and helped establish reading circles for young children. As a member of a student group in high school, she presented ideas on how to achieve curriculum and policies that eliminate racism, sexism and homophobia. She was an organizer for A Voice and a Choice – the first-ever provincial conference in Ontario on children and youth. For her anti-racism work, Bindu has received the Canadian Human Rights Achievement Award.

Denise, active in her home community of Oshawa, Ontario, also has a keen interest in what is happening internationally. During the G7 Summit and the People’s Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1995, she was a youth spokesperson with Auburn Air, the first-ever media team accredited at a summit. She recently co-hosted the Women’s Television Network (WTN) series Girl Talk. Denise has been named a YWCA Woman of Distinction and received a Harry Jerome Award. Denise became President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women in October, 2001.

Eager to ensure that more Canadian young people become involved in United Nations and other international organizations and that young people overcome the many difficulties getting there, Denise and Bindu are both active with Canadian Youth-Speak International, which you can reach at The Students Commission.

resources for this story
  • Beijing Declaration and the Plan of Action UN Department of Public Information
    To obtain a copy of the Beijing Declaration and the Plan of Action or other information from the UN, contact the UN Department of Public Information.
  • Setting the Stage for the Next Century: The Federal Plan for Gender Equality, Status of Women Canada
  • Take Action for Equality, Development and Peace, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
    Thirteen of the women’s organizations from Canada which were active before and during Beijing prepared a follow-up report in 1996. For a copy of Take Action for Equality, Development and Peace, contact the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (link below).
  • Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WED)
    WED published a report on activities of both governments and NGOs one year after Beijing.
  • Post-Beijing, Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme, volume 16, number 3 | summer 1996
  • NGO Forum in Nairobi
    For a look at the 1985 NGO Forum in Nairobi, ask your local library for the National Film Board of Canada film Speaking of Nairobi.
  • Women’s Movements and International Organizations
    For a look at how women have organized internationally over decades, see Deborah Stienstra, Women’s Movements and International Organizations (Macmillan, ISBN: 0312120869 | 1994)

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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