By Caroline Mwanga

Twenty-five years after its adoption the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, member states and observers, civil society organizations, gender equality leaders, CEOs, and heads of academia will gather virtually on July 21 in a multi-stakeholder hearing. The purpose is to bolster priority actions at the global and national level that will address the challenges that threaten the bold vision of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains today the most comprehensive and transformative global agenda for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Since its adoption, significant progress has been made on women and girls’ rights.

However, the UN Secretary-General’s report on the Review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and UN Women’s report, “Women’s Rights in Review 25 years after Beijing” warned that despite many advances, progress towards gender equality has been faltering and hard-won advances are being reversed today.

“By working together – girls and boys, women and men – we can galvanize multilateral action to realise human rights of all women and girls,” said the President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande in a video message to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day.

With the support of UN Women, Mr. Muhammad-Bande is convening an interactive hearing to call for a stronger multilateral commitment to implement the Beijing Platform for Action to advance the rights of women and girls, intensify efforts to build back better from the pandemic and set the stage for the High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the margins of the High-Level Week.

The High Level Week will focus on the theme “Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”. The virtual gathering on July 21 will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to exchange experiences, lessons learned and good practices to advance the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “It’s up to us to make sure that we use the power of multilateral investment and commitment to realize the potential gains from radical, positive action to redress long-standing inequalities in multiple areas of women’s lives.” She asked, “governments and all other service providers including the private sector to take this opportunity to plan their response to COVID-19 as they have never done before, include women in its design, and fully take a gender perspective into account.”.

COVID-19 has laid bare pre-existing inequalities. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, women and girls are disproportionately affected.

UN Women points out that:

  • While women’s political representation has doubled since 1995, men still control more than three quarters of the seats in the single and lower houses of parliaments around the world.
  • Nearly a billion women and girls 15 years and over lacked basic reading and writing skills in 2018.
  • Women 25 to 34 years old are 25% more likely than men to live in poverty.
  • It is the most marginalized women who have least contributed to the climate crisis who are most affected by environmental degradation and natural disasters.
  • After years of progress, the proportion of peace agreements that included references to women dropped from 32 per cent between 2011 and 2015 to 7.7 per cent in 2018.

Priority Actions

The progress review of the visionary agenda takes place for the first time in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda, including SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, highlighted the centrality of gender equality to progress across all the Goals and targets.

The Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, called for by world leaders at the SDG Summit in 2019, recognized the value in strengthening international cooperation to tackle both emerging and existing gaps in the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

In addition to a stronger multilateral approach, priority actions for advancement of gender equality include repealing discriminatory laws, the provision of adequate financing, closing gender data gaps, harnessing the potential of technology and innovation and eliminating gender stereotypes. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 July 2020]

Image credit: UN Women

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