UN Women’s Lopa Banerjee explains how the Generation Equality Forum can accelerate gender equality.
The Generation Equality Forum (GEF) has been 25 years in the making, and a postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic is not stopping the opportunity to push gender equality efforts forward.
The international conference is convened by UN Women, the United Nations’ organization dedicated to empowering women, and co-chaired by France and Mexico in partnership with youth and civil society. After kicking off March 29 through March 31 in Mexico City, the GEF will culminate in Paris from June 30 through July 2.
Lopa Banerjee, UN Women director, civil society division & executive coordinator, Generation Equality Forum, is bringing years of experience in fighting against gender-based violence and advocating women’s media representation to the GEF to ensure that it upholds the feminist and inclusive principles it was founded on.
Global Citizen spoke with Banerjee ahead of the GEF to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted feminist movements, about gender equality commitments that have already been made to support the GEF, and more.
Global Citizen: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted feminist movements?
Lopa Banerjee: The Generation Equality Forum is the next biggest movement for gender equality after the last big mobilization towards gender equality was leading up to the 1995 Fourth World Conference [on Women]. We’ve seen progress, but progress has also stalled. There has been regression. We’ve seen different kinds of pushback against gender equality. We have seen war, conflict, all kinds of socioeconomic phenomena in the environment that have led to a decline in gender equality.
Before COVID, at the 25-year mark of the Fourth World Conference on women, we were already in a world of profound inequality, whether it was related to gender-based violence, whether it was related to unpaid care work, whether it was related to women’s leadership, whether it was related to women, peace, and security and the presence of women as peace negotiators — we were falling way, way behind.
People who are already structurally excluded and marginalized felt the impact of that. People of color, LGBTI communities, Indigenous groups, refugees and migrants, and already marginalized groups felt the impact much more at one level. At another level, 70% of health care and frontline workers were women. Civil society organizations, women’s rights groups, [and] young feminist organizations revamped to become service providers in communities because the state was not able to deliver at the scale that was required. Community organizations and communities repurposed themselves to become first responders and service providers and communities, but at what cost to them? To themselves, at cost of physical safety and cost … they were already underfunded.
Enduring COVID, those funds shrank further because whatever funds [they had] were repurposed to provide emergency response. It’s not that new movements were born, but the movement organized itself differently in order to respond to the pandemic. A whole new means of mobilization was born.
Which investments and policies are you hoping to see announced at the GEF in Paris and why are they crucial to achieving gender equality?
We have already seen over 1,500 commitments coming through. Some of the crucial actions where we’re seeing a lot of commitments coming through are radical steps to end violence against women and girls. We are seeing funding coming through for this, including accelerated introduction and implementation of laws and policies to prohibit all forms of gender-based violence.