Beginning today, governments, corporations, and civil society are converging physically and virtually in Mexico City to kickstart the Generation Equality Forum, convened by UN Women. Between today and Wednesday, they will reveal a 10-year agenda aimed at accelerating gender equality.
Over the next few months, these parties are meant to shore up “game-changing,” “scalable,” and “measurable” support for these goals, before showing up at the concluding Generation Equality Forum meeting in Paris in late June to announce their financial, advocacy, policy, or programmatic commitments.
The process marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, which reinforced “women’s rights as human rights” and created a strong vision and blueprint for action to achieve gender equality.
The record since has shown heartening successes, such as significant shifts in access to education, health, jobs, and individual freedoms for women and girls, along with increased recognition of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Legal protections have expanded: For example 155 countries currently have laws addressing domestic violence.
But overall, progress has been unacceptably slow, and governments have often failed to adequately resource and prioritize gender equality.
As updated World Health Organization statistics revealed earlier this month, rates of gender-based violence remain devastatingly high, with one out of three women worldwide subjected to domestic violence or non-partner sexual violence or both. Thirty-eight percent of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners.
The Covid-19 pandemic threatens many of the advances made. For example, the number of out-of-school girls dropped by 79 million between 1998 and 2018, but the pandemic meant that 168 million children had their schools entirely closed for a year. Child marriage, poverty, and increased household responsibilities mean that many girls will not be returning.
This year’s Generation Equality Forum presents an opportunity to harness the lessons from the past and assemble the political will, funds, and accountability checks to push the gender equality agenda faster and more effectively.
In 2020, the World Economic Forum estimated it would take more than 250 years to reach gender equality. At that rate, not even the granddaughters of babies born today will have equality. We need bold action that will support the billions of women and girls of this generation and the next to exercise their rights and freedoms and live into their full potential.