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Thousands from Around the World Join in Workshops on Advancement of Women

July 10, 1985

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ More than 11,000 women, from California to Kabul, assembled here today to press for the advancement of women and for recognition that they are ″an asset and not a liability.″

Forum ’85, a series of workshops on women’s issues sponsored by non- government organizations, precedes the U.N. Conference to be held here July 15-26, which marks the end of a decade dedicated by the world body to the concerns of women.

Dame Nita Barrow of Barbados, convenor of Forum ’85, told delegates at the Kenyatta International Conference Center that it was their ″last chance″ to press the United Nations to set up a permanent women’s forum to ″recognize us as an asset and not a liability.″

Before the meeting started, she told reporters the conference was ″the largest gathering of women on earth in our present century. ...

″Here you will meet women on whose backs the ancient civilizations of the world have been carried ... women for whom until 10 to 15 years ago, ‘education’ was just a word. But today they hold high-ranking and constructive positions in their society,″ she said.

Kenyan minister of culture and social services, Kenneth Matiba, who gave the keynote speech, won cheers and good-natured laughter from the huge assemblage when he declared ″We, the women of the world, shall overcome.″

Matiba, whose portfolio includes women’s development, was a chief organizer of the conference.

Kenyan delegation head Eddah Gachukia, professor of literature at the University of Nairobi, appealed to the meeting not to forget rural women of the Third World - the field tillers, water carriers and wood hewers who are ″the backbone of their countries.″

Matiba told delegates that Kenya’s efforts to improve the lot of women were overwhelmed by major obstacles such as constant threats to world peace and a worldwide imbalance of resources.

Mrs. Gachukia led a group of women, clad in traditional, brightly colored robes, in dancing and singing in the vernacular Swahili: ″We women want to help build up our country. Women must play their part in development.″

Later, all delegates joined in singing a version of the American famine relief song recorded by 45 leading U.S. pop stars: ″We are the world. We are the women of the world. We are the ones who do two-thirds of the work.″

On Tuesday, the big problem for thousands of women attending the conference appeared to be where they would sleep, since many more are expected to arrive next week for the official end of the U.N. Decade for Women.

The government has been handling accommodations for both the Forum ’85 workshops and the U.N. conference.

Jessie Hacke of Washington, who represents Planned Parenthood, told the news conference the U.S. Embassy had ″lodged a protest in the strongest terms to the Kenyan government″ about accommodation problems faced by hundreds of American delegates.

The Kenya Times, the newspaper of the ruling party, carried a front-page story quoting government organizers as saying all delegates would be accommodated - some in dormitories of the downtown University of Nairobi and at Kenyatta University College on the city’s outskirts. Others would be housed in smaller hotels, it said.

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