By Isabela Rocha
Boston University News Service
During an International Women’s Day celebration, the United Nations (UN) released six actions it aims to implement in partnership with governments, international organizations, feminist and youth movements and the private sector to accelerate the reach of gender equality around the world in the next five years.
“Progress in women’s representation has been unbearably slow, and it has affected the pace of change for women overall,” said United Nations Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in one of the virtual event’s opening speeches.
The actions – including combating gender-based violence, promoting women’s bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and investing in technology and innovation for gender equality – will be discussed and refined at the Generation Equality Forum, which will start in Mexico this March and continue in France this June, according to a UN press release.
The “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” celebration was hosted by Sophia Pierre-Antoine, a young activist from Haiti, with the participation of more than 20 speakers from within and outside the UN.
The UN also announced the implementation of a Compact for Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, which will focus on financing, monitoring, and accountability of policies already in place.
Created in 2020, the Generation Equality Forum aims to assess the progress made since the Beijing Platform for Action 26 years ago and draw a road map for its full implementation.
Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s minister of foreign affairs, said the pandemic has devastated gender equality in the world, especially in developing countries, so the Forum will have to redouble its efforts to achieve a starting point similar to the one when the Forum was first developed last year.
“We are experiencing something very different because our challenge grew so much,” Ebrard said during the event. “It is an important challenge, and we need everyone to do their part.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres highlighted how even though women have played critical roles – such as peacekeepers and frontline workers – during the pandemic, there has been a rollback on women’s rights in the past year.
“Too often, services are delivered by women, but decisions are made by men,” Guterres said. “We need to work together with vision and determination to make equality happen.”
By 2021, 47 million women will be pushed into poverty because of the pandemic, according to a 2020 report by UN Women. Women around the world tend to hold less-secure jobs than men, and the economic impact of the pandemic has led informal workers, for example, to lose about 60 percent of their income.
Women make up 70% of the health and social care workforce around the world, increasing their risk of COVID-19 infection, according to the report, and domestic violence has grown globally during the pandemic.
Élisabeth Moreno, France’s minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal opportunities, said the challenges posed by the pandemic have made the forum more important than ever.
“We are not looking for fancy speeches or declaration of principles,” Moreno said. “We want real, innovative, and collective commitments, through the six Action Coalition that will be launched in Paris.”