Wednesday, May 25

Billions pledged to address gender inequality at the UN forum | Women’s rights and gender equality

Billions of pounds will be pledged to support efforts to address gender inequality this week at the largest international conference on women’s rights in more than 25 years.

The Generation Equality Forum, organized in Paris by UN Women and the governments of France and Mexico, will launch plans to radically accelerate progress over the next five years.

After two years of consultation Between governments, feminist and women’s rights groups, philanthropic foundations, the private sector and UN agencies, the three-day forum takes place amid concerns about the the pandemic has exacerbated a crisis on women’s rights.

An estimate 47 million more women will fall into extreme poverty due to Covid, according to the World Economic Forum. And the International Labor Organization has said that women’s unemployment increased by 9 million in 2020 compared to 2019 and is projected to rise by another 2 million in 2021. The pattern for men is different: Unemployment is projected to decline. in 2021.

Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris
Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris. The foundation has announced $ 2.1 billion in new funding for projects to support women’s rights over the next five years. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters

“The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the opportunity to rekindle a movement and bring about real change, ”said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which announced a new $ 2.1 billion (£ 1.5 billion) commitment over five years to economic empowerment. . health and family planning; and acceleration of women into leadership positions. “The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that all human beings will benefit from it.”

French Gates said that while there has been some progress since the Fourth World Conference on Women brought together 47,000 activists in Beijing in 1995, nowhere in the world are women on an equal footing with men. Waves of opposition to women’s rights have emerged and structural barriers still exist.

Other funding pledges and legislative changes will be announced in six areas: gender-based violence, economic justice, sexual and reproductive health rights, climate justice, technology and innovation, and feminist movements and leadership.

TO compact The role of women in peace and security and gender equality in humanitarian programming will also be announced.

In response to the pandemic exacerbating digital inequalities, the Global Fund for Women will launch its System Reboot campaign to support feminist tech innovators in the developing world and to “mobilize technology as a force for gender justice.”

French President Emmanuel Macron (center) speaks during a debate at the Generation Equality Forum.  with (from left to right): Élisabeth Moreno, Minister of Equality of France;  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women;  The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres;  and the president of the European council, Charles Michel.
The President of France, Emmanuel Macron (center), during a discussion at the Generation Equality Forum with (from left to right): Élisabeth Moreno, Minister of Equality of France; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres; and the president of the European council, Charles Michel. Photograph: Ludovic Marin / AFP / Getty Images

The Ford Foundation, which last year sold its social bonds to raise cash and help address the economic consequences of the pandemic, will commit to $ 420 million (£ 300 million) over five years. Nicolette Naylor, the foundation’s program director, said that talking about gender equality has not been accompanied by action. “As some parts of the world begin to emerge from the pandemic, it is critical that gender equality be a key factor to rebuild better. It is time to stop talking and start funding the organizations that are driving the change and necessary progress in global gender equality ”.

The heads of state of Sweden, Finland, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa and Tunisia will join French President Emmanuel Macron and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in person. While online, US Vice President Kamala Harris will speak and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also scheduled to appear.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, said the forum was a reaction to the slowness in achieving both the Beijing Action Plan and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and made more urgent by the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women.

“Beijing was not funded and we have struggled for the past 25 years to implement it,” he said.

A food vendor at the International Women's Day celebration in Lagos, Nigeria
A food vendor at an event to mark International Women’s Day in Lagos, Nigeria. Photograph: Akintunde Akinleye / EPA

But there have been concerns about how the money will be spent. Hakima Abbas, co-executive director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, said: “We still don’t know where that money is going, or to whom or for what.

“It’s really cool that we’re talking about billions committed, especially since resources were part of the Beijing problem. There has been no political will or financial backing to do [Beijing] platform for the implementation of actions possible “.

She added: “The key drivers of change are feminist movements. If you don’t have strong feminist movements, you are not going to push for gender equality. If these billions go to public-private partnerships, that will not be a catalyst. You have to make sure that most of the funds go to feminist movements. “

Some of the hundreds of activists recruited globally to ensure that young people participated in the discussions have also expressed their frustrations.

TO young feminist manifesto, published earlier this year, said that uneven power dynamics and neglected views made young people “find it very difficult to participate in these spaces, let alone co-direct and co-own them.”

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