A three-day international conference drawing nearly 50,000 people, mostly virtually, just made history in mobilizing the largest amount of investments to advance gender equality and women’s rights to date.
Governments, philanthropy, civil society, youth organizations, and the private sector confirmed $40 billion of investments and major policy and program commitments at the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) that concluded in Paris on Friday.
Convened by UN Women, and co-chaired by France and Mexico in partnership with youth and civil society, the packed GEF agenda included over 110 events centered around ensuring that women and girls aren’t left behind. Initially scheduled to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference drew on the pivotal moment for gender equality as gender-responsive recovery plans are on the table.
High-profile speakers at the GEF included world leaders such as US Vice President Kamala Harris, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President of France Emmanuel Macron, along with philanthropist Melinda Gates and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and actress Anne Hathaway.
The most momentous international gender equality gathering since the 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing presented an opportunity to bolster support to address the severe underfunding of gender equality initiatives stalling advancements.
Governments and public sector institutions committed to $21 billion in gender equality investments, the private sector $13 billion, and philanthropy $4.5 billion. Meanwhile, UN entities and international and regional organizations committed an aggregate of $1.3 billion.
A total of 440 civil society organizations and 94 youth-led organizations also made significant policy and program commitments.
The Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality, a global five-year action plan launched by UN Women, aims to speed up gender equality progress by 2026. The Forum also announced other new health, sports, culture, and education-related gender equality initiatives and introduced the Compact on Women, Peace, and Security, and Humanitarian Action, which received more than 100 signatories.
“The Generation Equality Forum marks a positive, historic shift in power and perspective,” Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “Together we have mobilized across different sectors of society, from south to north, to become a formidable force, ready to open a new chapter in gender equality. The Forum’s ecosystem of partners — and the investments, commitments, and energy they are bringing to confront the greatest barriers to gender equality — will ensure faster progress for the world’s women and girls than we have seen before.”
Here’s a list of 14 big commitments announced at the GEF.
1. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to support women across sectors.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation kicked off the GEF at the opening ceremony with a $2.1 billion commitment to advance women’s leadership, sexual and reproductive health, and economic empowerment.
2. The US stepped up its policy and investment commitments for gender equality.
The US government announced a $1 billion investment to support programs fighting gender-based violence, and $175 million to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally.
3. The World Bank is prioritizing addressing gender inequalities in Africa.
The World Bank invested in programs in 12 African countries to tackle gender inequalities.
4. Mexico and UN Women are leading the charge against the unequal distribution of unpaid domestic care.
The Mexican government and UN Women initiated the expansion of the Global Alliance for Care, which now includes 39 countries. The Canadian government also pledged $100 million to address the inequalities caused by the unequal amount of unpaid domestic care put on women and girls globally.
5. Six African countries will work together to improve women’s and girls’ lives.
Burkina Faso’s government, in collaboration with Benin, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Togo, committed to providing free care for pregnant women and children under 5, and take legal and social action to end harmful forms of gender-based violence such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.
6. Education activist Malala Yousafzai’s organization is investing in the next generation of educational leaders.
The Malala Fund committed to providing at least $20 million in feminist funding to girls’ education activists.
7. Consumer goods corporation Procter & Gamble committed to advance women’s economic justice and rights.
Procter & Gamble will spend $10 billion with women-owned and women-led businesses through 2025. (Disclosure: P&G is a funding partner of Global Citizen.)
8. Bangladesh pledged to increase women’s participation in tech.
Bangladesh’s government plans to increase women’s participation in the information and communications technology sector to 25% by 2026 and 50% by 2041.
9. PayPal pledged to invest in women’s economic empowerment.
The online payment system company committed $100 million to advance women’s economic empowerment.
10. Caribbean NGOs pledged to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community.
Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia, the nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting survivors of violence, will advocate for legislative reform across the region to minimize the discrimination and victimization of the LGBTQ+ community.
11. The Open Society Foundation will fund feminist political mobilization and leadership.
Billionaire George Soros’ grantmaking network Open Society Foundation committed at least $100 million over five years to fund feminist political mobilization and leadership.
12. Kenya committed to stand up against gender-based violence.
President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta announced a national strategy and resources to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
13. Georgia is taking legal action against sexual violence.
President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili announced a commitment to legally expand the definition of rape in the country to offer more protections for survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.
14. The Ford Foundation committed to ensuring that women and girls aren’t left behind in COVID-19 recovery.
The Ford Foundation, dedicated to human welfare, invested $420 million to address the inequities against women and girls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.