This month’s edition focuses on the Beijing +25 Regional Review Forum held in Geneva, 28-29 October. The forum gathered together Member States and Civil Society Actors to review progress made towards achieving gender equality across the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was first adopted in 1995. SI Director of Advocacy, Bev Bucur explains more:
“This forum contributes to the preparations for CSW64 and the 2020 General Assembly which will focus on progress made towards the achievement of the Beijing Platform for Action. Soroptimists from the United States, Europe and Israel attended the meetings. Beyond reviewing progress, the forum provided an opportunity for UNECE Member States to identify challenges in the implementation of the global Beijing+25 review in 2020. UNECE and UN Women prepared a regional review report on the basis of the national reports, which were then discussed throughout the forum”.
In her blog from the opening ceremony, SI Advocacy Coordinator, Hannah Agius describes the discussions as being full of
“enthusiasm, expertise, and determination”.
Hannah summarises some of the key trends regarding the achievement of gender equality in today’s world, including the need for gender-disaggregated data, the ongoing problems caused by gender stereotyping, and the role of the internet in facilitating gender equality. Click here to read Hannah’s blog.
The second session was a review of social and economic policies to address the gender pay gap. Kay Richmond, Programme Director from SIGBI explains the key facts and strategies discussed:
“As with all initiatives there is a mixed picture across the countries:
- Iceland and Switzerland are in the lead on progress;
- Legislation can help but implementation is the key to closing the gender pay gap;
- There is a great need to provide affordable childcare if women are to take their place in the workforce;
- Casual and flexible work is taken up more by women than men, this is often linked to caring responsibilities for children and less able relatives (e.g. elder care, for people with disabilities);
- Employment of people in the care sector, a field with more women than men, is less well remunerated;
- There is a clear need to involve and work with men, and with the private sector, if we are to achieve success.
All these factors, inter alia, lead to a gender pay gap and arise through gaps in social and economic policies. For those wishing to read more about the gender pay gap in their own regions, the Global Gender Pay Compass is a very useful tool.”
SI UN Representative, Berthe De Vos (feature image: centre) attended the third session which focused on progress made towards ending gender-based violence. In her blog from the event, Berthe explains that
“elimination of violence against women and girls is critical for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women. Violence is a grave violation of the fundamental human rights of women and girls, which are not negotiable.”
Berthe goes on to discuss the notable points from this meeting and explains that changing social attitudes is a huge step towards preventing violence against women. Click here to read Berthe’s blog.
The next session reviewed the role of education in gender equality. SI Director of Advocacy, Bev Bucur reports:
“This session identified strategies on closing the gender gap and eliminating all forms of discrimination in education. In her intervention, Ms. Elina Kalkku, Under-Secretary of State for Development Policy at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, reminded us that education is a powerful tool for women and girls to achieve gender equality and economic empowerment. Though there have been gains in education for women, UNESCO reports that nearly 1 billion girls and women lack the skills to succeed in rapidly changing job markets. Gender disparity remains regarding women entering STEM (science, technology education and mathematics). Innovative approaches to learning, including e-learning, are an important means of reaching those left behind, including girls, children with disabilities and those who are in socially excluded and marginalised communities. It is also important that lifelong learning opportunities are provided for girls, women, refugees and migrants so that they can obtain skills for the changing jobs market.
Hava Karrie, Director, of the MASHAV Carmel Training Centre in Israel discussed the importance of moving beyond STEM into STEEAM. This stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship and the Arts. Entrepreneurship skills are those that prepare women for starting their own businesses, these skills should be added to the curriculum so that girls are empowered to think about becoming business owners. In addition to entrepreneurship, mentoring is an important tool for supporting women when they are creating their own businesses and achieving economic empowerment”.
More information from this event can be found here.
SI UN Representative, Kristin Reynisdottir (feature image: right) and SI Advocacy Coordinator, Hannah Agius attended a side event which highlighted the role of rural women entrepreneurs as agents of change, and the crucial role of women’s resource centres in facilitating opportunities for entrepreneurship. The side event discussed the sustainability of such centres and demonstrated their wide-reaching benefits. Click here to read the blog.
Throughout the forum, there was much discussion on the subject of funding for gender equality. SI UN representative Stacy Ciulik (feature: image: left) summarises some of the key points:
“Investing in gender equality is one of the surest paths to achieving gender equality as it translates commitments into meaningful action and implementation. High political commitment is necessary.
Without proper financing by states’ national budgets and an increase in aid which targets gender equality, international and national commitments cannot be achieved. Vocational training for female victims of domestic violence and released female convicts is just one example of the numerous investments which support women in getting equal ground in society.
The panel member, Ms. Anna Björnermark, Associate Director for Gender Mainstreaming and Access to Services, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) held an informative talk on the difficulties business women have in receiving support from financial institutions. She explained that female business owners of small and medium-sized enterprises do not receive funds for their businesses due to gender bias, lack of credit history and many other gender-based reasons”.
SI Statements Advisor, Pat Black has written a highly informative blog from the session on financing for gender equality which you can read here.
At the end of the two days, the forum came together to hear the co-chairs closing remarks. SI Advocacy Coordinator, Hannah Agius summarises:
‘’Gender equality must be inclusive. Women and girls with disabilities should be actively and continuously consulted regarding all aspects of their life and treatment. Women of all age groups, ethnicity, financial and regional backgrounds must be given a place at the decision-making table. NOTHING ABOUT US, WITHOUT US!
Poor data remains a significant barrier to evidence-based policy making. For this reason, it is easier to change legislation (still no small feat) than it is to implement these changes in real life terms. An increase in financial commitment is necessary for gender equality to be achieved. This is not to be considered a cost, but an investment.
Regarding violence against women, Member States were encouraged to ratify their support for the Istanbul Convention. And policy makers were encouraged to consult with victims and survivors of gender-based violence when setting up methods of support and protection.
Barriers to lifelong accessible learning must be dismantled and stereotypes must be countered in order to promote and enable female involvement in all educational institutes and specialities’’.
As Ms. Asa Regner, UN Women, drew the forum to a close, she remarked upon how inspired she felt by the amount of ‘’willingness, involvement and knowledge’’ participants had shown throughout the review process.