During the largest worldwide conference on women’s rights in more than 25 years, billions of pounds will be pledged to fund efforts to combat gender inequality.
The UN Women-hosted Generation Equality Forum, co-hosted by the governments of France and Mexico in Paris, will unveil proposals to dramatically accelerate progress over the next five years.
The three-day summit takes place amid fears that the pandemic has exacerbated a crisis in women’s rights, following two years of consultation between governments, feminist and women’s rights groups, philanthropic foundations, the commercial sector, and UN agencies.
According to the World Economic Forum, Covid will cause an additional 47 million women to slip into extreme poverty. Women’s unemployment increased by 9 million in 2020 compared to 2019 and is expected to rise by another 2 million in 2021, according to the International Labour Organization. Men, on the other hand, are expected to witness a decline in unemployment in 2021.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a fresh five-year commitment of $2.1 billion (£1.5 billion) to economic development, health and family planning, and women in leadership.
Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stated that the world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow but now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change.
While there has been significant improvement since the fourth world summit on women in Beijing in 1995, women are still not on an equal footing with men anywhere in the globe. Waves of anti-women’s-rights sentiment have emerged, and institutional hurdles continue to persist. Gender-based violence, economic justice, sexual and reproductive health rights, climate justice, technology and innovation, and feminist groups and leadership will all receive additional funding and legislative improvements.
A compact on women’s role in peace and security, as well as gender equality in humanitarian programming, will be unveiled.
The Global Fund for Women will start its System Reboot campaign to help feminist technology innovators in the poor world and to “mobilise technology as a force for gender justice” in response to the pandemic increasing digital inequality. The Ford Foundation, which raised money last year by selling social bonds to deal with the economic repercussions of the pandemic, will contribute $420 million (£300 million) over five years. Talk about gender equality, according to Nicolette Naylor, a programme director at the foundation, has not been matched by action.
Sweden, Finland, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, and Tunisia will be in attendance, as will French President Emmanuel Macron and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. While watching from home, US Vice President Kamala Harris and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are slated to speak.
The meeting, according to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, was a response to the poor progress of both the Beijing action plan and the UN’s sustainable development objectives and was made more urgent by the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women.
However, there are questions about how the funds will be utilised. Hakima Abbas, co-executive director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, stated that they had no sense yet of where that money is going, or to who, or for what.
Hundreds of activists who were brought here from all over the world to guarantee that young people were included in discussions have also expressed their dissatisfaction. Uneven power dynamics and disregarded perspectives, according to a young feminist manifesto issued earlier this year, make it impossible for young people to participate in these spaces, let alone co-lead and co-own them.