UN Generation Equality Forum on fast-tracking gender parity opens in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron and US Vice President Kamala Harris were among those present for the UN Generation Equality Forum in Paris on June 30, 2021.
French President Emmanuel Macron and US Vice President Kamala Harris were among those present for the UN Generation Equality Forum in Paris on June 30, 2021. © Screen grab FRANCE 24

French President Emmanuel Macron and US Vice President Kamala Harris were among those taking part in the UN Generation Equality Forum on Wednesday in Paris.

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The Generation Equality Forum, at a summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, aims to fast-track the road to gender equality and mobilise millions of dollars to achieve the long-sought goal quickly.

"Women who simply wanted to be free to drive, who simply want not to wear a veil or to have an abortion, are threatened," noted the French president in front of an audience of political leaders, activists and representatives of civil society.

Women deprived of freedom of speech or the freedom to vote should fight for their rights and know that the United States stands beside them.

US Vice President Kamala Harris told the forum that gender equality was paramount to strengthening democracy.

“If we want to strengthen democracy, we must fight for gender equality. Because here is the truth: Democracy is strongest when everyone participates and it is weaker when people are left out,” Harris told the summit by video link.

Two months after entering office, Harris said President Joe Biden’s administration would revitalise Washington’s partnership with UN Women, a UN body dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Melinda Gates said the Gates Foundation would direct $2.1 billion in new money to strengthening gender equality. More than half would go to sexual health and reproductive rights while $100 million would be spent on helping get women into positions of power in government and the workplace.

“Women should not only have a seat at the table, they should be in every single room where policy and decisions are being made,” Gates said.

We know the answers

Ahead of the conference, UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in an interview with the Associated Press that the underfunding of women’s programmes and the slow implementation of a 150-platform to achieve gender equality adopted by the world’s nations in Beijing in 1995 “leaves a lot of women in a situation where they will never really realize their true and full potential”.

What the three-day Generation Equality Forum starting Wednesday is about, she said, is tackling and funding all areas where women have been “short-changed” – forced marriage, gender-based violence, leaving school, experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, trying to crack glass ceilings, losing out on innovation and technology, and ensuring their sexual and reproductive rights and health.

“Many of the problems that women face in 2021 – we know the answers,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “The fact is that we are not doing what is right by women," she said, calling such inaction a "reflection of people who really don’t care or understand the pain that women go through”.

The Generation Equality Forum in Paris, an initiative of UN Women marking the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing women’s conference, was delayed from last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and will be mainly virtual because of the continuing global impact of the coronavirus. It is a follow-up to a forum in Mexico City in March and is co-chaired by France and Mexico.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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