The Generation Equality Forum for Women’s Rights

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida — In 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing, addressed the global inequality between men and women. Continuing on into the present day, updated U.N. Women conferences exist to assess progress on gender equality globally. The 2021 Generation Equality Forum, as one of these conferences, further proposed steps to be taken and plans for the coming years.

The Chronology of World Conferences on Women

Established by the U.N. and held in Mexico City in 1975, the initial World Conference on Women sought to address the persistence of gender inequality around the world. More than 130 governments attended. The conference created the World Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Women’s Year. The plan presented a “comprehensive set of guidelines for the advancement of women” into the next decade.

Three more conferences followed in 1980, 1985 and 1995. The 1995 conference in Beijing stands as the pinnacle of all of the conferences in terms of actionable plans, strategic goals and international agreements built on years of preparation.

Despite some progress, little substantial development was evident until the assembly in 1995. Of the more than 17,000 who attended the conference, 6,000 were government delegates; in a neighboring city, about 30,000 attended a simultaneous forum for nongovernmental organizations. The Fourth World Conference on Women saw 189 countries adopt a new agenda for gender equality. This agenda is known as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is significant because of its pledges in the name of global gender equality. Additionally, every five years after the Beijing conference, follow-up conferences have reexplored and reexamined the progress on the main objectives. Because of the pandemic and concerns around it, the latest conference was held in 2021 and dubbed the “2021 Generation Equality Forum.”

The lasting impact of the Beijing Conference exists in the broad and comprehensive list of issues that the conference targeted. Focus areas included “Women and poverty,” “Education and training of women,” “Women and health,” “Violence against women” and others.

Consistent International Efforts

In addition to the five-year conferences, other international gatherings have focused on similar goals. The U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women holds yearly conferences to tackle pressing equality concerns and improvements. The Commission serves as the “principal global intergovernmental body” on “the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.” The 2021 assembly of the body passed resolutions and worked through disagreements.

International gatherings and their continued efforts shed light on the still urgent subject matter of global women’s rights. This year offers proof that major setbacks, such as the pandemic, demand crucial revisitation and alteration of plans to achieve equality. After all, documents addressing the fluctuating state of human rights remain relevant based on the human effort supporting them.

This year, the Generation Equality Forum began in March in Mexico City and reconvened in June in Paris. The Forum took place in partnership between the French and Mexican governments. It reexamined old commitments and aimed to implement more of the strategies of the Beijing Declaration in a new global context.

A Continued Push for Progress

The Generation Equality Forum strived to provide further progress toward the protection of women’s rights. At the Mexico City kick-off, participants from 85 countries witnessed a $10 million contribution from the Canadian government along with future plans from the Ford Foundation to create a Global Alliance for Sustainable Feminist Movements.

The Paris portion of the Forum, which ran from June 30 to July 2, sparked a call for updated plans and investments. In response, governments, public and private sector contributors and philanthropists committed nearly $40 billion in funding altogether. The Forum presented the opportunity for countries and organizations to commit to improvements. In areas ranging from women’s education to economic empowerment, many took this opportunity.

Though the world has not achieved gender equality, major global groups continue to work toward it. Furthermore, as global collaboration leads to definitive actions, the future of gender equality holds meaningful hope.

Caroline Kratz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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