Trailblazing leaders commit to end gender-based violence, drive equality in technology and innovation, and ensure economic justice and rights for women and girls at the Generation Equality Forum
Date: Friday, July 2, 2021
On 1 July, Action Coalition Leaders and Commitment Makers gathered at the Generation Equality Forum to launch ground-breaking commitments to end gender-based violence, drive equality in technology and innovation, and to ensure economic justice and rights for women and girls everywhere.
Twenty-six years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, progress on gender equality is still too slow. Public rhetoric has not been matched by action, financing, or implementation. The Generation Equality Action Coalitions are mobilizing governments, women’s, feminist and youth-led organizations, international organizations, and the private sector to create game-changing, concrete actions that tackle the most intractable barriers to gender equality.
The thematic events on 1 July showcased the work of the Action Coalitions on Gender-Based Violence, Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, and Economic Justice and Rights. The Action Coalitions have identified the most catalytic actions and investments needed to advance gender equality in their “Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality”. This plan, which was launched on 30 June at the opening of the Forum, is a 5-year roadmap for the achievement of gender equality.
Ending gender-based violence
Gender-based violence is a global emergency. Even pre-COVID, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly perpetrated by an intimate partner. The pandemic has further exacerbated these existing inequalities, with domestic violence increasing by upwards of 33 per cent in some countries, leading to what UN Secretary-General António Guterres called a ‘shadow pandemic’ for women and girls around the world.
However, the escalating violence has not just been limited to the domestic sphere, as feminist activist Suneeta Dhar, speaking on behalf of the Global Coalition on Inclusive and Safe Spaces and Cities for Women and Girls, pointed out. Sexual violence, discrimination, harassment and exclusion of women and girls also continues in public spaces within both rural and urban areas. In response to the rising crisis, the Global Coalition on Inclusive and Safe Spaces and Cities for Women committed to strengthening ongoing work to end gender-based violence in public cities, and to create inclusive and safe spaces in cities for women and girls.
Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, kicked-off the Leaders commitment segment by pledging over USD 260 Million to tackling gender-based violence and building an infrastructure for women’s rights organizations. “If we are to address the issues of gender-based violence, we have to focus on the infrastructure of women-led organizations and grassroots organizations, so they can have the resources to be resilient in the face of the obstacles and challenges that they are facing,” said Walker.
Participants stressed on eliminating violence at all levels, from the family level to the institutional and societal level. “Ending gender-based violence and realizing gender equality will require a concerted effort from all sectors of society, for many years to come,” said Minister Wendy Morton, Minister for European Neighbourhood and Americas at FCDO.
The bold commitments from 17 Action Coalition Leaders sent the clear message that their holistic and transformative vision of change is backed by very concrete targets.
“Commitment is not just about financing, but also having an accountability framework for implementation and being able to track results. We are committing to implementation and being held accountable as a government on these gender-based violence commitments,” said Margaret Kobia, Cabinet Secretary of Kenya, when announcing Kenya’s national strategy and resources to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
Achieving economic justice and rights for all women and girls
The far-reaching economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls was an overarching theme in discussions on economic justice and rights. Women’s workloads at home have intensified and 47 million more women are predicted to fall into extreme poverty as a result of the economic fallout of the pandemic. A global economic system that’s gender-responsive, and equally benefits women was underscored as a priority by all leaders.
Transforming the care economy was another priority endorsed by Action Coalition leaders and demonstrated by a powerful collective commitment to the Global Alliance for Care, an initiative launched at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico in March by Mexico’s National Institute for Women (INMUJERES) in partnership with UN Women. The alliance marks a bold effort to confront and reduce the care burden that severely impedes women’s economic opportunity. The commitments to the alliance included gradual and progressive financing of a universal and sustainable care system and awareness campaigns to equal sharing of care work. “We cannot carry on having women and girls working twice as much and not sharing the responsibilities that are the responsibilities of all”, said Nadine Gasman, President of the National Women’s lnstitute of Mexico.
Commitments ranged from implementing progressive laws and policies to address violence and harassment in the world of work, ensuring women’s access to land rights and strengthening education systems for women and girls.
“Convention 190 of the ILO says that there is no place for violence and harassment in the world of work”, said Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO. “Today I give you a clear commitment to deliver on that promise. In the coming 5 years the ILO will intensify its efforts to advocate and support an effective implementation of convention 190.”
“Equal access to productive resources acts as a catalyst, because it increases women’s independence and negotiating power in all areas of life”, emphasized Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Government of Germany. In order to bring that catalytic effect to life, one of Germany’s ground-breaking commitments is to make more than 30 million euros available over the next five years via the global ‘Responsible Land Policy’ project, to promote secure land rights, especially for women, in nine countries.
Livia Leu, Secretary of State of the Government of Switzerland announced the Government of Switzerland’s commitment to provide a substantial increase in core funding for the Global Partnership for Education.
Empowering women to access, lead and innovate in technology
The event on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality showcased inspiring women innovators that have broken barriers, innovated for social good, and paved the way for other women to thrive.
Sebastián Piñera Echenique, President of Chile, announced the first commitment as an Action Coalition leader to help ensure that other brilliant women can pursue their aspirations and contribute to advancing the world through technology and innovation. “Today I am proud to announce that Chile will launch a national gender equality policy in the world of science, technology and innovation with the aim of achieving full equality of opportunities in these areas,” said Echenique.
The Leaders and Commitment Makers presented a united vision of a future in which women and girls in all their diversities have equal access to opportunities to use, lead, and design technology and innovation. However, for meaningful progress in this area, the world needs to address the significant digital divide that persists in low- and middle-income countries and entrenched gender norms that continue to limit the aspirations of young women and girls.
Global Fund for Women, in partnership with the Numun Fund and other Commitment Makers, committed to mobilize at least USD 5 Million over the next five years to fund gender justice movements and feminist activists in the Global South who are advancing technology and innovation.
“The bottom line is that technology must work for gender justice, not against it,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women. “Feminist technology innovators in the global south and east are creating technologies to help advance democracy and human rights. Global fund for Women is alongside them with funding and support.”
Finland Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, acknowledged that “technology is creating countless opportunities for us, but it is also create risks and cause harm”. Over 85 per cent of women globally have witnessed or experienced online violence, with young women facing heightened risk. Finland has partnered with UNICEF, the U.S. Government Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, and several ACT&I commitment makers, to pilot and build an innovative virtual safe space designed for girls and women in humanitarian settings.
“This virtual safe spaces platform is about putting human-centred design squarely in the centre of this process and in the hands of girls and women, because they know their own digital realities, which tech tools bring them joy, and which bring them opportunity and which ones do not,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“I think part of what is different about the Generation Equality Forum process,” reflected UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia, “is that all of these commitments are actually underlined by financial commitments as well. We understand that the scale of the problem is so large that unless we drive new resources towards the agenda, we simply will not be able to solve the problems we all know exist.”
On 2 July, trailblazing actors from the other three Action Coalitions and from the Compact on Women, Peace and Security will be taking the stage at the Generation Equality Forum to launch their shared plan of transformative actions.
For more information, register and attend the Generation Equality Forum in Paris (30 June – 2 July).