Media advisory: In a pandemic world, where does gender equality fit in?

UN Women at the UN General Assembly 2020


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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold the world hostage, global leaders will gather at the largest annual intergovernmental meeting for the first time ever in a virtual session. The 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 75) will open on 15 September, and its General Debate will focus on how to respond to the pandemic and confront its challenges through multilateral action. The session is historic in that it will mark the 75th anniversary of the organization, through a summit meeting on 21 September.

With COVID-19 putting at risk the hard-won advances achieved on women’s rights in past decades, gender equality will be one of the top items on the agenda of decision makers. This General Assembly session also comes a quarter century after the adoption of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The agreement remains a visionary and comprehensive framework for the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The roadmap, which lays a foundation for transforming the lives of women and girls, was reaffirmed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This session will see the first High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in two decades. With the overall theme of “Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”, the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Beijing+25 will emphasize that now is the time for transformative change. Leaders are called upon to present concrete actions and commitments to accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030, including in support of the role of civil society organizations and youth.

A major stock-taking UN Women report published earlier this year showed that progress towards gender equality is faltering, and hard-won advances are being reversed. Too many women do not have decent work, women get paid 16 per cent less than men, and nearly one in five women (18 per cent) have faced violence from an intimate partner in the past year. Women’s sexual and reproductive health has been a global objective for two decades, but 190 million women still lack the means to avoid pregnancy even if they want to, the same as in 2000. Women currently hold just one quarter of the seats at the tables of power in all sectors. Men are still 75 per cent of parliamentarians, hold 73 per cent of managerial positions, are 70 per cent of climate negotiators, and are almost all of the peace negotiators.

COVID-19 is only making matters worse. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, women and girls are disproportionately affected. According to the latest data, as a result of the pandemic, 47 million women and girls will fall below the poverty line (living on USD 1.90 or less), bringing the total of poor women to 435 million by 2021. World leaders must support the critical role that women play in building resilience and recovery efforts in both the rapid response and the long term of building back better.

A set of side events supported by UN Women in the lead-up to the High-Level Meeting will put a spotlight on the need to place women front and centre of the response against COVID-19. One of them is the “Women Leaders for Generation Equality” event, an intergenerational discussion on how diverse leadership can change the world. This event will take place under the rubric of the Generation Equality campaign and Forum, originally scheduled to be held in Mexico City and in Paris in 2020, and now postponed to next year and being adapted and strengthened to respond to the current context.

The UN Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs is the world’s chance to transform the lives of current and future generations of women and girls. In support of the UN Decade of Action, UN Women has announced six Action Coalitions, which are global, innovative, multi-stakeholder initiatives to mobilize governments, civil society, UN agencies, and the private sector, to be launched in the context of the Generation Equality Forum with youth at the centre. The Action Coalitions aim to catalyse collective action and drive increased investments to deliver concrete, game-changing results to advance equality for women and girls in the next five years.

Another major event will call on political leadership and support in ending violence against women and girls, which impacts 1 in 3 in their lifetimes, with 243 million women victims of violence perpetrated by an intimate partner each year. Domestic violence has increased exponentially during the lockdowns around the world.

Note to media: Details on these events are still subject to change; please keep checking the online version of the media advisory for the latest calendar. All timings below are EDT (New York time).

Official UN General Assembly events

High-level meeting on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women: Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

The High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly is an opportunity to demonstrate the political will and leadership that will bring about the transformative change needed to accelerate the achievement of the commitments expressed in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The opening segment will feature statements from, among others, the President of the UN General Assembly Volkan Bozkir, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a representative of China as the host country of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Executive Directors of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and of UNFPA, Natalia Kanem, three women’s rights leaders, an eminent high-level champion of gender equality, a representative from civil society and a young woman leader, followed by interventions by Member States focusing on concrete actions and commitments for accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

When: Thursday, 1 October 2020, 9am–7pm EDT
How to watch: UN Web TV

Sustainable Development Goals Moment (SDG Moment) of the Decade of Action

On 18 September 2020, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will convene the first Sustainable Development Goals Moment (SDG Moment) of the Decade of Action. The meeting will serve to reinforce the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the north star for governments and partners as they grapple with COVID-19 response and recovery. It will seek to instil a renewed sense of urgency, accountability, ambition, and transformative possibility around implementation efforts. UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, will deliver, together with UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and the Executive Director of UNEP Inger Andersen, a presentation showing what Member States and stakeholders can do to pursue maximum progress towards the SDGs by 2030.

When: Friday, 18 September 2020, 8–11am EDT
How to watch: UN Web TV

UN Women-supported or co-organized events

Women leaders for Generation Equality

As part of the Generation Equality campaign and in the lead-up to the Generation Equality Forum, the Government of Mexico together with UN Women and the Council of Women World Leaders is organizing a virtual intergenerational discussion on how diverse leadership can change the world. The event will gather the Women Leaders for Generation Equality with young leaders from different parts of the world to focus on the importance of inclusive leadership and the change it can bring for all girls and women. The discussion will touch on different visions of women’s leadership, where women leaders from across the world can share their approaches, lessons learned, and experiences from before and during the COVID-19 outbreak, to speak about the value of women’s leadership and address the conditions needed for women to take on leadership roles and participate in decision-making, as well as making sure the younger generation share their recommendations, reflections, and advice. Participants include UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Prime Minister of Iceland and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders Katrín Jakobsdóttir; Minister of Interior, Mexico, Olga Sánchez Cordero; African Union Youth Envoy Aya Chebbi; Founder of the #MeToo Movement Tarana Burke, and more.

When: Thursday, 17 September 2020, 8.30–10am EDT
How to watch: Please check back on the online version of this media advisory at a later date for more information on how to register for and attend this virtual event.

Celebrating International Equal Pay Day: Building back a better future of work by ensuring pay equity – A global call to action

On the occasion of the first International Equal Pay Day, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) is organizing a virtual global Call to Action encouraging all labour market actors to take the necessary steps to ensure that equal pay is at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery efforts worldwide. The event will comprise a panel discussion with leading governments, global equal pay activists, academics, business leaders, and trade unionists, such as former Minister of Social Affairs and Equality of Iceland Thorsteinn Viglundsson, Captain of US National Women’s Soccer team Megan Rapinoe, and journalist and equal pay advocate Samira Ahmed, followed by remarks from the EPIC Secretariat, Director General of International Labour Organization Guy Ryder, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Asa Regner, and Secretary General of OECD José Angel Gurria.

When: Friday, 18 September 2020, 9–10.30am EDT
How to watch: Registration required before Wednesday, 16 September: Zoom connection details will be shared by email to registered participants.

High-level side event on achieving gender equality in nationality laws

The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights is organizing a virtual High-Level Side Event at the 75th UN General Assembly, “Achieving Gender Equality in Nationality Laws,” in partnership with a group of champion States, The Commonwealth, UN Women, and UNHCR. Despite significant reforms to end legal discrimination against women, today approximately 50 countries maintain nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender. Twenty-five countries have nationality laws that deny women the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis with men. At the event, panellists will discuss lessons learned from reform processes and highlight the significant benefits of gender-equal nationality rights to citizens, their families, and society as a whole. The event will also emphasize the reform of gender-discriminatory nationality laws as critical to upholding gender equality, ending statelessness, and the achieving sustainable development.

When: Wednesday, 23 September 2020, 9–10.30am EDT
How to watch: Registration required:

Supporting women-owned businesses in COVID-19 recovery

This event, held during the Global Impact Forum in the side-lines of the General Assembly, aims to stimulate a dialogue on the impact of COVID-19 on women-owned SMEs and how they have adapted to cope with the challenges. Event participants will discuss how governments, civil society, and the private sector can support women-owned businesses amid COVID-19, and how the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) framework can serve as a model for effective response and recovery. The winners of the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge will also be announced and presented. The event will feature remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia and Head of the European Commission's Service for Foreign Policy Instruments Hilde Hardeman, and a fireside chat with Head of WEPs Secretariat and Manager of the WE EMPOWER G7 programme Anna Falth; Senior Vice President, Start Path and Fintech at Mastercard, Amy Neale; and Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary at Mary Kay Inc. Julia Simon.

When: Tuesday, 22 September 2020, 12–1.30pm EDT
How to watch: Please register at this link: Confirmed participants will receive information on how to join.

From recovery to transformation: High-level launch of the UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Policy Tracker on Gender Equality

The launch event will present the new COVID-19 Global Policy Tracker on Gender Equality, currently the only tool monitoring the gender sensitivity of national policy measures in response to COVID-19. Co-created by UN Women and UNDP, the tracker includes analysis of four critical policy areas: social protection measures, labour market measures, fiscal and economic support measures, and prevention and response to violence against women. It will contribute to global knowledge on policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic with a gender lens and provide rich information on policy options. The launch of the Global Policy Tracker will be accompanied by a new policy brief, which will analyse the data, summarize the major findings and provide recommendations. Participants in the launch event include UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UNPD Administrator Achim Steiner, and representatives from Member States (at Ministerial level), civil society and academia.

When:  Monday, 28 September 2020, 12–1.30pm EDT
How to watch: The event will be broadcast live on Zoom.

High-level event on economic justice and rights: 25 years after Beijing

Women and girls are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the economic sector, women are often in lower-paid jobs, more often in the informal sector and have less access to social protection systems. Women constitute a majority of workers in the health and social sectors. Women carry out 3 times the amount of unpaid care work and school and care facilities closure, among other consequences of COVID-19 has increased this unbalanced distribution. This discussion will thus focus on the care economy and the care work that women provide in professional capacity, as well as the recognition of unpaid care and domestic work. COVID-19 has heightened the demand for care work, in turn highlighting the importance of care in the sustainability of life in spite of the sector’s low visibility. Initiating economic and social reforms for Gender Equality to design and implement measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work and to ensure and promote legislative recognition and active public policies – including fiscal measures and social protection – must be part of the global response.

When: Monday, September 28, 10am EDT
How to watch: To attend, please RSVP to.

Gender-based violence in a COVID-19 context: Activating collective responses, innovative partnerships and proven policies

UN Women is hosting a high-level side event on gender-based violence to highlight progress made on tackling gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19, and to activate the UN Secretary-General engagement strategy on gender-based violence. The event will also profile the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence (one of the themes of the six Action Coalitions), with a strong, vibrant, and results-driven constituency of fifteen leaders from Member States, civil society, the private sector, philanthropies, and international organizations, and its potential to drive change and achieve concrete impact in the coming five years. Participants at the meeting, including champion Member States, grassroot activists, civil society organizations, and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, as well as young leaders, will also discuss the challenges and solutions to ending violence against women in a COVID-19 world, including invaluable support and adapted measures provided by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.

When: Tuesday, 29 September 2020, 9.30–11.45am EDT
How to watch: Please register in advance. Confirmed participants will receive the link to join.

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