Some of the participants during the Generation Equality Forum in France. PHOTO/ UN WOMEN
By PATRICK MAYOYO
Efforts to accelerate gender equality and address the consequences of COVID-19 for women and girls has received a major boost after different stakeholders pledged more than US$ 40 billion in new investments to spur global gender equality.
The pledges were made by Heads of State and Government, heads of international organizations, activists from civil society and youth-led organizations, philanthropists and CEOs of private sector companies who gathered in Paris, France between 30 June to 2 July during the Generation Equality Forum.
The Forum’s projected USD40 billion of new investments will represent the largest-ever collective infusion of resources into global gender equality.
The Forum in Paris marked the launch of a five-year journey designed to accelerate gender equality and a turning point in the international community’s commitment towards women’s rights.
During the Forum, more financial, policy and programme commitments were made from over 1,000 diverse commitment-makers.
The Forum launched a Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality, driven by six Action Coalitions, and launched a Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, with the aim to accelerate gender equality in the next five years and to face the growing risks to women’s rights caused by Covid-19.
The event marked the most significant international convening for gender equality since the 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing. The Forum was attended by the co-hosts, President of France, Emmanuel Macron and Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as well as by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and convener of the Forum, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.
During the meeting, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a national strategy and resources to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. The Forum showcased concrete commitments and had a sharp focus on implementation and financing for gender equality.
President Macron underscored his commitment to confronting the gender equality crisis, saying, “Through the Generation Equality Forum, France’s objective is to state loud and clear that the rights of women and girls are universal, as are all human rights, everywhere, all the time.”
President Macron added that France commitment was about reaffirming that no cultural or religious relativism, no regional or identity-based particularism, justifies that a woman cannot enjoy the same rights and the same opportunities as a man.
Member of the Generation Equality Youth Task Force Shantel Marekera, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, President of France Emmanuel Macron, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President of the European Council Charles Michel participate in the opening ceremony of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris. PHOTO/UN WOMEN/FABRICE GENTILE
“Our method for achieving this result is concerted international action, what I have called multilateralism through action,” he said. The French government committed USD100 million to improve access to contraceptives and family planning.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, welcomed the bold ambition of the Forum, saying that the Forum was a moment “to redress a global imbalance, with activists, policymakers, and leaders across all ages shaping our world into a more just and gender-equal society.”
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, noted: “This is a new chapter for gender equality. Those with a world view of radical impatience are converging to create big, well-resourced changes. Together we will revitalize the unfinished Beijing agenda, united by the conviction that we must take risks and do things differently.”
Key outcomes from the Forum included the US$ 40 billion-plus in new investments benefitting women and girls and a US$ 2.1 billion commitment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance women’s leadership, reproductive health, and economic empowerment.
There was also a US$ 420 million investment from the Ford Foundation to tackle threats to women’s rights caused by COVID-19 and the World Bank committed to a major investment for programmes in 12 African States to tackle gender inequalities.
The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Tradeau presented the country’s commitment to invest in a care system to benefit women and girls and the President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili presented her commitment to lead legislative change on the legal definition of rape.
The Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris, made policy and resource commitments on gender-based violence, women’s economic security, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The Forum also agreed on the launch of new coordination mechanisms to advance key issues for gender equality, such as a new Global Alliance on Care and an Alliance to Fund Sustainable Feminist Movements.
Additional philanthropy commitments are expected from the Co-Impact Fund, CIFF, Fondation Chanel, Global Green Grants, the Women’s Funding Network, and the Open Societies Foundation. Major private sector contributors will include P&G, Unilever, PayPal and Estée Lauder.
A significant number of civil society and youth led commitments were be made; for example: GirlsForClimate will commit to establish over 100 local climate hubs in Uganda; Cameroon Digital Rights Campaign will announce advocacy and policy work to end the digital divide; and the Egyptian Feminist Union will commit to work on equal rights to divorce and guardianship of children for divorced women.
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