14 August 2020, Pretoria – 2020 is a pivotal year for gender equality – this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the international blueprint to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment adopted by 189 governments, across 12 critical areas of concern.
Indeed, there has been significant progress on women’s and girls’ rights since Beijing 25 years ago:
• 131 countries have removed discriminatory laws.
• More girls globally receive 12 years of education, compared to 6.7 years in 1970.
• Global maternal mortality ratio decreased by 38% since 2000.
• In South Africa, at 50 percent of women ministers in Cabinet – one of only 11 countries in the world; women have the right to exercise control over their reproductive health; and have access to social protection.
• But in too many areas we are running to stay in place. Despite all our efforts not a single country today can claim to have achieved gender equality. Unless progress on gender equality is accelerated, the global community will not only fail to achieve SDG 5, it will also forgo the catalytic effect that gender equality can have for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda more broadly.
• Collectively, we must tackle the unfinished business of empowering women through a new, groundbreaking, multi-stakeholder, multigenerational ACTION campaign: Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future
• The Generation Equality Forum has launched a set of six catalytic Action Coalitions, led by Members states from the Global South and North, with NGOs and the private sector. The Action Coalitions are global, innovative, multi-stakeholder partnerships that will catalyse collective action; spark global and local conversations among generations; drive increased public and private investment; and deliver concrete, game-changing results across generations for girls and women These are the six areas of unfinished business represented through the Action Coalitions:
1. Gender-Based Violence Action Coalition. Led by Kenya, the UK, Iceland and Uruguay plus the European Commission, this Action Coalition will respond to the 243 Million women and girls around the world who experience Intimate Partner Violence every year. The persistent shadow pandemic made even more stark by COVID that is claiming the lives and livelihoods of millions of women and girls everywhere must be addressed. This Action Coalition will push for the prevention of violence and harmful practices like FGM and Child marriage by challenging norms and stereotypes particularly amongst men and strengthen national responses including access to justice.
2. The Economic justice and rights Action Coalition is co-convened by South Africa, Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Germany to address the over 257 years gender gap in Womens economic participation. In South Africa, the Action Coalition will seek to address the 27% gender pay gap, the 47% of women struggling in the informal sector and only 9% accessing preferential procurement by women-owned businesses. The 40% Preferential Procurement bill announced by the President on Women’s Day, preferential trade regimes for women traders, COVID relief and recovery for women businesses will be among the actions to end this economic gender gap.
3. The Bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights Action Coalition is convened by Burkina Faso, Argentina, France and Denmark. For South Africa, this will mean confronting head on the challenge of the 1000+ adolescent girls and young women who experience new HIV infections each week and desperately need SRHR services. It will also seek to ensure the rapid expansion of Maternal Health services and other SRHR services to key populations including LBTi persons
4. The Feminist action for climate justice Action Coalition is co-convened by Costa Rica, New Zealand, Luxembourg and the Pacific Islands. This Action Coalition will seek to confront the gendered impact of climate-induced displacement of millions of women and children across the world and of women farmers whose livelihoods are impacted by climate change. In South Africa, the recent droughts of 2016/17 left one-woman farmer devastated in KZN after losing all 13 cattle that were her only source of livelihood. This Action Coalition will seek to urgently invest in advancing women’s agency, representation, and leadership in the climate economy by expanding finance and access to climate-smart technologies
5. The Technology and innovation for gender equality Action Coalition is convened by Finland, India, Tunisia, Armenia and Rwanda. COVID-19 has leapfrogged us into the 4th Industrial Revolution requiring that internet access and mobile phones are a fundamental right rather than a privilege. Yet in most countries in Africa, the gender gap in internet access rises to 43% exacerbating already wide inequalities between men and women. This Action Coalition will drive internet access everywhere encouraging every municipality to make it available for free to its citizens for learning, trade and communication. Investments in programmes like the African Girls Can Code initiative, Smart Girls, IAMTHECODE and many more exceptional innovations will be scaled.
6. The Feminist movements and leadership Action Coalition is co-convened by the Netherlands, Canada, Ukraine and Ethiopia. It is no secret that globally the countries seen to have led the COVID response the most effectively were led by Women Heads of State! South Africa has demonstrated this leadership too through the National Command Council that has at its helm mostly women Ministers. This Action Coalition will play a critical role to invest in feminist movements that are instrumental in ensuring gender parity in the Leadership of nations but also in promoting Gender Inclusive National and Foreign Policies, Gender responsive budgets and accountability as we have seen in Uganda.
As we celebrate the courageous march of the 20,000 women of 1956 that has led us to this one-of a kind Women’s Month we congratulate South Africa for its National, Regional and global leadership of gender equality. This Is the greatest investment that we can do to ensure the full realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. What we know for sure is that, when women lead, development thrives, and peace prevails!