The outgoing head of the UN Women’s Agency hopes that the USD 40 billion pledged to promote gender equality over the next five years will result in many more women in leadership positions, a reduction in violence against women, and the more than 40 million women who fell into extreme poverty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and more escaping poverty trap.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who stepped down as executive director of UN Women this week after eight years, said in an interview that the pledges made by world leaders, the private sector, philanthropists, and organizations at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris on July 2 represent a historic and positive shift toward broad-based investment in a wide range of women’s issues.
She cited that not having adequate resources proportional to the magnitude of the problem as one of the key problems she encountered, as well as the realization that governments alone could not fix the situation.
Governments and public sector institutions pledged USD 21 billion to gender equality projects, followed by the private sector with USD 13 billion, philanthropies with USD 4.5 billion, and organizations with USD 1.3 billion, according to UN Women.
The UN agency also reported that 440 civil society organizations and 94 youth-led organizations made policy and programme commitments.
Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that the funds do not go to UN Women, but instead it goes to the women and girls of the world, but it goes to the issues that have been pointed out to governments and other stakeholders as the critical issues that are impacting women.
Governments, corporations, non-governmental organizations, and others who pledged funds must now work towards implementing the women’s agenda.
Combating gender-based violence, fostering women’s leadership, and supporting the feminist movement received the greatest funding. Funders also provided money to grassroots organizations to ensure women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, though not as much as she expected.
However, she stated that much more financing is required to address the impact of climate change on women, which the UN agency would advocate for at the upcoming climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
In addition, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, countries banded together and put money on the table to advance new issues such as unpaid care and how to reduce and redistribute the burden, promoting “gender-responsive policing,” which focuses on not only bringing perpetrators to justice but also preventing crimes, and promoting women’s access to digital finance including enabling them to be procurement suppliers to governments which she will be working on when she returns to her home in South Africa.
She stated that what is done in the UN General Assembly and the Commission on the Status of Women, the UN body that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment, will be monitored annually.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said there had been difficult, exciting, and challenging times throughout her eight years at UN Women.
She hopes that in five years, the global average of 25% women’s representation in many forums will rise to 50%, that laws against violence against women will be much more widely implemented, and that extreme poverty, which disproportionately affects women under the age of 30, will be significantly reduced.