About the Author: Brooke Spelman serves as a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Whenever I pass through Tiananmen Square I'm awed by how huge and expansive it is, and today was no different. The sun was shining -- rare for a Beijing winter day -- the sky was clear and there were bright, red Chinese flags billowing in the wind as we arrived at the north entrance of the Great Hall of the People.
On Friday, March 6, the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) invited a group of us from the Embassy to attend their annual celebration of women, held every year at China's parliament building, currently hosting the annual session of China's National People's Congress (NPC). As we walked up the grand staircase into the red-carpeted entrance hall, we were joined by groups of women from all around the world, some dressed in national costume, others taking pictures of the magnificent Chinese vases that lined the walls of the hall. We were then led into the reception area and were greeted by ACWF staff who directed us to our table in preparation for the festivities.
The celebration began with a welcome address by Chen Zhili, ACWF President, former State Councilor and Minister of Education, and current vice chairman of standing committee of 11th National People's Congress. Speaking to an audience of 1,600 women (and a few men), she touched on the challenges and opportunities faced by China last year -- the severe snowstorms in South China, the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province, the Beijing Olympic Games and the launch of the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft -- and how China will never forget the "unselfish assistance that people and governments worldwide offered" during this time. She expressed pride at the "great headway" that had been made by Chinese women over the past 30 years, during which China had been undergoing reform, and congratulated the ACWF on its 60th birthday. She called for an increased focus on women's rights, gender equality, and for improving the lives and access to jobs and education of women in rural communities.
During her speech I start to think about the messages the Secretary made during her recent trip to Beijing, and about the women's rights themes she evoked in her op-ed piece, which was published in the Chinese media on Monday. She said that "women's rights is not only a continuing moral obligation -- it is also a necessity" as we face the global challenges ahead of us. Only through empowering women can we build "stronger economies, more vibrant civil societies, healthier communities, and greater peace and stability." What a powerful message.
Isn't every day women's day?