Montgomery fellow talks about U.N. women's forum

by Karen Rose | 11/20/95 6:00am

As part of an all-day discussion Saturday on the future of women, former Montgomery Fellow Dottie Lamm spoke about her experience as a U.S. Delegate to the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing this summer.

The day-long program in Cook Auditorium, titled "Women's Future: Who Decides? A Call to Action," was intended to explore strategies for getting women of the Upper Valley to vote in the upcoming elections.

Lamm said it was very difficult to explain everything that happened at Beijing in her brief speech, titled "From Beijing to the Nation: Implementing Change."

"I can't possible cover Beijing [in this talk]. I couldn't even cover Beijing while I was there," Lamm said. "There were over 4,000 conferences, and I went to only three."

Lamm focused on the "ABCs" of the conference -- atmosphere, breakthrough and commitment.

"The atmosphere was amazingly civil and consensus-oriented," Lamm said. "We were very, very worried about the Beijing Conference. We felt we might have had a disaster on our hands."

But she said groups ranging from the Vatican to the United States and the European Union were able to sit down and negotiate with each other.

"It wasn't that everyone agreed, but rather the delegation decided to put disagreements aside," Lamm said.

"There was a great feeling of partnership: a partnership between women and women and women and men," she said.

Peru's president, for example, came against the urgings of his advisers and according to Lamm said, "This is not a conference for women, but a conference for fighters, and I am a fighter."

Lamm said one of the main goals of the conference was to get people to see that women's rights empowerment is not just something nice to do for women, but is necessary in today's world where women's skills are greatly needed.

Lamm said one of the highlights of the conference was Hillary Clinton's speech.

"When Hillary Clinton came, it was like an electrifying thing for the whole conference," she said.

Lamm said internationally, Clinton is almost revered by women of less developed countries.

In terms of the breakthroughs made at the conference, Lamm described Beijing as "the gift that keeps on giving" and said U.S. women can carry on the breakthroughs with the commitment of the United States.

Issues discussed included children's rights, family planning, sexual rights and religion.

Lamm said while discussing the subject of religion, the conference explored the positive aspects, but agreed extreme religious views should not be used to hold women down.

The same went for motherhood, which Lamm said should not be used to keep women out of the rest of society.

The conference also explored issues that affected all of humanity -- like environmental issues.

"It is important to see women as victors, not just victims," Lamm said. "We are doing great things for humanity."

She stressed that the spirit of the conference was that it was a great organizing tool.

Finally, in terms of commitments, there are eight to 10 pages detailing the U.S.'s commitment to the breakthroughs in Beijing.

These included public interagency meetings, a presidential honor role for companies and colleges that have family-friendly policies, contraceptive research and development, an anti-smoking initiative and a hotline on women's health issues.

"We had to be realistic and look towards things we could do that wouldn't have to go through Congress," Lamm said.

She stressed the importance of keeping women involved in the sciences and new computer technology.

"If we as women and girls do not buy into this computer technology, we will be left by the wayside," Lamm said.

Lamm is a psychological social worker and a columnist for the Denver Post. She was a Montgomery Fellow at the College this summer.

The discussion was organized by the Institute for Women and Social Change, which its founder, Spanish Professor Diana Taylor, described as a "bridge" between the more problem-oriented Women's Resource Center and the College's academic women's studies program.

The idea for Saturday's program stemmed from a conversation Lamm and Taylor had last summer when Lamm was a Montgomery Fellow at the College.

Linda Fowler, the director of the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences, also spoke at the conference.

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