Nairobi +21: Commemorating the 3rd UN World Conference on Women

African Woman and Child Feature Service (AWC), Heinrich Böll Stiftung East and Horn of Africa
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Nairobi +21

At the conclusion of the UN decade for women (1975 – 1985), the first international women’s conference on African soil was held in Nairobi, Kenya. This conference presented an opportunity for new forms of organizing, that would more clearly and for the first time, be informed by the agendas of women from the South.

Dubbed the Third World Conference on Women, the Nairobi conference was held on 15-26 June 1985. Close to 1,500 official delegates from 150 countries participated in the meeting, with another 15,000 women attending a parallel NGO forum. The parallel NGO Forum generated new strategies, for addressing the needs of women at all levels of society. Fundamentally, the Nairobi conference resulted in the development of the "Forward Looking Strategies for the advancement of Women" which were intended to be a practical and effective guide for global action to promote greater equality and opportunity for women.

Taking the lead in 2006, the National Commission on Gender and Development, in partnership with women’s organizations and development partners led the "Nairobi +21" process, a series of events and activities which were designed to offer a critical space for the reflection on the commitments of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (NFLS) and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA). This then culminated in the Nairobi Conference held on 27 October 2006, which was a commemoration of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategy.

This publication documents the landmark meeting for women in Africa and the rest of the world, particularly focusing on how far "Nairobi +21" has invigorated and transformed gender issues on the continent. Importantly, it captures milestones that will continue to encourage women in their quest for gender equality. Further, it reiterates the enduring priorities of engagement for gender equality that include political and economic empowerment for women, peace and security for development, ending violence against women, addressing socio-cultural norms that constrain women’s lives, and increasing women’s participation in key decision-making environments.

Gender equality is officially on the agenda of most governments. What is now needed is for governments to respond more positively in a structured way by establishing stronger institutional mechanisms, with stature and resources equal to the task of addressing the goals of gender equality and women’s empowerment.