UN Women engages Civil Society organizations on the road ahead

Date: Tuesday, October 20, 2020

UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Deputy Executive Director, Asa Regner, addressed over 600 civil society activists in a town hall meeting on the state of gender equality in the COVID-19 world. The 19 October meeting came on the heels of the UN General Assembly high-level meeting to mark 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, where world leaders made significant commitments to achieving gender equality.

“we couldn’t have been talking about the progress made if civil society was not as resilient. We owe them a lot of this progress," said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, paying tribute to the power of activism of the feminist movement.

The town hall was also an occasion for a “re-set moment”, as expressed by the Executive Director ahead of the meeting, and an occasion "to reaffirm the promises the world made to women in 1995,” which remain unmet.

The interactive style town hall, which reflected an intersectional and intergenerational discussion with the Executive Director, and Deputy Executive Director, was moderated by Lopa Banerjee, Director of the UN Women Civil Society Division.

While reflecting on the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on Beijing +25, Asa Regner noted that the “will to shift power from men to women…has not happened”. Despite progress in some areas such as girls’ enrolment in school and lower maternal mortality rates, implementation of legislation along with a lack of adequate funding towards reforms has been lacking. Ms Regner lauded the feminist leaders for their efforts to hold governments accountable, and highlighted the innovative multi-stakeholder Actions Coalitions of the Generation Equality Forum as an opportune platform for accelerated implementation and a model for partnerships going forward. 

Leila Hessini of Global Fund for Women conducted a presentation on the impact of COVID-19 on feminist movements stressing interconnectivity and stating, "our movements don’t exist in silos… and the only way to solve the uncertainties of this moment…is to develop new forms of solidarity, of accountability and collaboration”.

This was amplified by the youth activist, Elisabeth Keuten, on behalf of Generation Equality Youth Task Force, who affirmed: “[It is importnant] to include all genders when talking about shifting power from men to women.” 

Civil Society participants emphasised that the best way forward for gender equality was through intersectional and intergenerational leadership, a sentiment that was echoed by the Executive Director who also closed the town hall by stressing the need for greater accountability, and funding for gender equality, and to see this moment in time as an opportunity to build back newer and differently.