By Ana Sofia Romero, Policy Intern, Together for Girls
The recent Generation Equality Forum (GEF) –a global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-chaired by France and Mexico, with the close partnership of civil society–represents a vital opportunity to accelerate the pace of efforts to advance gender equality made in Beijing in 1995. The cornerstone of GEF is a process of feminist agenda-setting and the launch of six Action Coalitions with concrete, measurable targets and associated financial resources acceleration action on gender equality for the next five years.
The commitments recently announced in Paris are all the more remarkable because UN forums are often better known for photo ops and handshakes, and not always for actionable outcomes For example, the platform agreed to in Beijing had no real financial backing, and it didn’t involve the private sector nor civil society in the negotiations or while establishing the priorities. In order to avoid past mistakes, during the GEF, all participants — whether UN member states or grass-roots activist organizations — were required to submit clear, measurable proposals that fell under any of the six main policy areas: eliminating gender-based violence, advancing women’s economic empowerment, enhancing access to sexual and reproductive health care, increasing gender parity in private and political spheres, investing in gender-focused climate change solutions and narrowing the gender digital divide.
This new requirement led to the unveiling of a total of $40 billion to advance gender equality — most likely the largest dollar amount ever dedicated to the issue. This funding is particularly useful this year due to the fact that COVID-19 has exacerbated existing gender inequalities, with reports of rising violence against women, as well as higher adverse economic impacts caused both by increased unpaid care-giving and the fact that women work in more insecure, low-paid and informal jobs.
Although the outcomes of the Generation Equality Forum offer a critical opportunity to confront persistent, widespread gender inequality, it’s important to recognize some of the concerns that were brought up after the Forum. The most relevant concern is that girls are often included under the label “women and girls” with little attention to their different needs or how resources will be divided across age-groups. A blog by Save the Children notes that publishing all commitments in full detail on a single platform will be an important first step.
As one youth advocate commented during the Forum:
“We are hearing a lot of commitments about young people and girls’ one youth advocate said ‘but so far I see very few commitments to work with us.”
This was said in reference to the fact that of 10 financial commitments to build feminist movements, just three include financial contributions to girls’ networks. Understanding and ensuring impact for adolescent girls will depend on accountability processes setting targets and measuring progress specifically for adolescent girls.
The perseverance and dedication to realigning strategic goals following the COVID-19 pandemic by the Forum’s major player is admirable. However, now more than ever, international attention must be focused on these organizations to guarantee they uphold their commitments. That being said, another concern that was brought up during the Forum was maintaining accountability. In response, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) offers independent monitoring and reporting on country progress well after the Generation Equality Forum concludes, extending the impact of this critical effort. This initiative also offers a promising model that actors focused on advancing global gender equality can follow as they develop an independent accountability mechanism.
Even though the Forum offers many incredible initiatives, this marks only the beginning not the end of this global effort. There is still a long way to go and plenty of opportunities to improve the main issues discussed during the gathering as well as opportunities to develop a stronger sense of accountability within the community. We look forward to seeing the leadership and accomplishments from the Generation Equality Forum take effect in 2021 and beyond!