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In preparation for the Beijing Conference on Women - Action for Equality, Development and Peace - in September 1995, an informal group launched "Action for Gender Equality" for the purpose of encouraging broad-based participation in advancing gender equality around the world. Preparations for the upcoming meeting have been difficult; there are dangers of public misperceptions about gender equality; progress achieved at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development needs to be sustained. It thus becomes very important to mobilize and project a wide base of support for the Beijing Conference on gender equality.

We urge all those who support gender equality to join us as signatories of this statement. Our hope is that the statement will foster dialogue and raise awareness about the importance of gender equality as well as counter the idea that gender equality is advocated only by women or only for the benefit of women. We believe that many men support gender equality and that the benefits of gender equality would accrue to all members of society.

The struggle for gender equality is one of the hallmarks of the 20th century. Much progress has been achieved, but the agenda remains unfinished in all societies. Gender continues to be a powerful barrier shaping the rights, capabilities, and opportunities of an individual - from birth throughout a lifetime. Fairness and social justice cannot be attained if women are stigmatized at birth, if their rights and entitlements are violated, and if they do not have equitable control over resources and decision-making.

We believe that the empowerment of women - equitable access to resources, power, and decision-making - is essential to gender equality. We recognize that such a process requires a realignment of power in decision-making at the household, institutional, and all levels of society.

Actions for gender equality should include removing obstacles to women's full and equal participation in all spheres of public and private life, safeguarding human rights throughout a woman's life cycle, and emphasizing shared responsibility between women and men as the basis for achieving development, peace, and social justice. Although these principles are embodied in many international conventions, treaties, and declarations - most notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child - major gaps between reality and these universally-accepted rights persist.

The ultimate goal, we believe, should be an equitable partnership between women and men built on the strengths of shared knowledge, energy, creativity, and skills. Such a partnership is of intrinsic value. It can also bring positive benefits to society as a whole, and contribute to solving many of the world's most pressing problems.

Areas for Action