A silver lining in the midst of the pandemic

In this blog Lynda Keeru reports back on some of the best moments from the Generation Equality Forum. Get up to date on what was said and pledged!

In his key address at the inception of the Generation Equality Forum 2021, French President, Emmanuel Macron remarked that ‘no country in the world has yet achieved complete equality between men and women.’ This statement illuminated the poor state of gender equality across the world; many years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the adoption of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The 1995 Declaration, highlighted 12 areas of focus where high-priority actions were identified for gender equality, development and peace for all women. Unfortunately, 26 years later, little has been done to fulfill these commitments. The COVID-19 pandemic has undone a lot of the little progress made over the years and exacerbated gender inequities. There is an increase in reports delineating rising violence against women, teen pregnancies, higher rates of job losses for women among others. Women have without a doubt borne the brunt of the pandemic.

The Generation Equality Forum held in Paris brought together governments, corporations, leaders, donors and change makers from around the world to define and announce ambitious investments and policies. It was a vital moment for feminists to outline transformative change for future generations. At the event, a series of concrete, ambitious, and transformative actions to achieve prompt and irreversible progress towards gender equality were launched.

Making her remarks, the Executive Director of UN Women said:

“The Generation Equality Forum marks a positive, historic shift in power and perspective. Together we have mobilized across different sectors of society, from south to north, to become a formidable force, ready to open a new chapter in gender equality. The Forum’s ecosystem of partners – and the investments, commitments, and energy they are bringing to confront the greatest barriers to gender equality – will ensure faster progress for the world’s women and girls than we have seen before.”

The Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality was launched during the Forum. The plan is driven by six Action Coalitions.  The aim of the plan is to accelerate gender equality in the next five years and to face the growing risks of a decline on women’s rights caused by COVID-19.

Over the course of the event, a wide range of commitments were unearthed from every sector. Some of these include:

  • The United States Government’s commitment to a range of significant policies and investments including an investment of USD 1 billion to support programmes to end violence against women, and USD 175 million to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally
  • The expansion of the Global Alliance for Care, initiated by the Government of Mexico and UN Women. This now includes over 39 countries. The Government of Canada made a commitment of USD 100 million to address inequalities in the care economy globally, as a parallel to significant investment in its own care system
  • The Government of Bangladesh’s pledge to increase women’s participation in the ICT sector, including the tech start-up and e-commerce sector, to 25 per cent by 2026 and 50 per cent by 2041
  • Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia’s commitment to collaborate with Caribbean NGOs to advocate for the recognition of the LGBTQI+ community and to undertake region-wide legislative reform to minimize discrimination and victimization
  • Open Society Foundation’s commitment of at least USD 100 million over five years to fund feminist political mobilization and leadership
  • The Government of Burkina Faso’s work with Benin, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Togo to develop shared commitments related to family life education, free care for pregnant women and children under five years and legal and social change to end gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation and child marriage
  • The Malala Fund’s commitment to provide at least USD 20 million in feminist funding to girls education activists
  • The Gates Foundation commitment to USD 2.1 billion to women’s empowerment over the next five years. They characterize their priorities as cash, care and data

In addition to the range of financial commitments, many world leaders shared their thoughts commitments and sentiments as documented below:

“It is precisely when we confront how broken things are that we have the most power to reimagine them and lay a foundation for a more resilient society…The only way we can deliver an equal world is to be in the rooms where pivotal decisions get made. The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it. We are not playing a zero-sum game where one group’s success is another’s failure. In our world, when you are encouraged and supported to become whoever you want to be, the horizon expands. In our world, equal is greater. Let’s build that more equal world together.” Melinda Gates, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

“They will stand on your shoulders and my shoulders. They will look much further than we can look, and they are a new generation. What was born in Beijing, these young people are going to take forward for us, who are older now. This is the new birth of a new generation and new leadership for women, and we thank them for everything that they have done in these last few days.” Under Secretary General of the United Nations and UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The conversations, investments and commitments made in Paris revolved around a common theme; the need to empower women. Time has come to get the power into the hands of the women themselves, including those in fragile settings and the global South. We must pay attention to who is not in the room and ensure that they are represented. We will only make progress if we work together.