The opening of the World Conference of the International Women's Year at the Juan de la Barrera Gymnasium in Mexico City.
The opening of the World Conference of the International Women's Year at the Juan de la Barrera Gymnasium in Mexico City on 19 June 1975. UN Photo/B Lane

World Conference of the International Women's Year
19 June-2 July 1975, Mexico City, Mexico


The first UN conference on women

The first world conference on the status of women was convened in Mexico City, Mexico to coincide with the 1975 International Women's Year, observed to remind the international community that discrimination against women continued to be a persistent problem in much of the world.

The Conference, along with the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985) proclaimed by the General Assembly five months later at the urging of the Conference, launched a new era in global efforts to promote the advancement of women by opening a worldwide dialogue on gender equality.

At this conference, three objectives were identified in relation to equality, peace and development for the Decade:

  • Full gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination;

  • The integration and full participation of women in development;

  • An increased contribution by women towards strengthening world peace.

The Conference urged Governments to formulate national strategies, targets and priorities. It led to the establishment of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), both of which were later merged, along with two other UN entities, in 2010, to form UN Women. At the 1975 conference, women played a highly visible role. Of the 133 delegations from Member States, 113 were headed by women. Women also organized the International Women's Year Tribune, which attracted some 4,000 participants, and a parallel forum of non-governmental organizations that signalled the opening up of the United Nations to non-governmental organizations, which enable women's voices to be heard in the organization's policy-making process.

The World Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Women’s Year was adopted by the Conference. The Plan provided guidelines for national action over the 10-year period from 1975 to 1985 as part of a sustained, long-term effort to achieve the objectives of the International Women’s Year. The recommendations for national action were addressed primarily to Governments, and to all public and private institutions, women's and youth organizations, employers, trade unions, mass communications media, non-governmental organizations, political parties and other groups. The Final Report of the Conference stated that “National plans and strategies for the implementation of this Plan should be sensitive to the needs and problems of different categories of women and of women of different age groups. However, Governments should pay special attention to improving the situation of women in areas where they have been most disadvantaged and especially of women in rural and urban areas.”