7 November 2019
Regions Identify Barriers to Gender Equality in Beijing+25 Review Meetings
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The UNECE region called for increased action to encourage women and girls to enter male-dominated fields, and identified a lack of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment as one of the greatest barriers to gender equality.

In a Declaration adopted at the Africa regional review, Ministers note with concern the inequality of opportunities faced by women, which exacerbates their vulnerability to poverty, and the burden of unpaid care work, higher unemployment and working poverty faced by women in Africa.

The meetings are part of a series of regional reviews ahead of the Beijing Platform for Action's 25th anniversary in 2020.

In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action during the Fourth World Conference on Women, regions have begun reviewing progress towards gender equality according to the Platform’s 12 critical areas of concern, and its role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The outcomes of each regional meeting will contribute to the global review of the Beijing Platform for Action taking place at the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 64) in March 2020.

The Beijing Platform for Action focuses on 12 critical areas: women and poverty, education and training of women, women and health, violence against women, women and armed conflict, women and the economy, women in power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights of women, women and the media, women and the environment, and the girl child. To date, the European and African regions have held their preparatory meetings, with upcoming meetings scheduled for Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Asia.

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) held its review meeting from 29-30 October 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland, co-hosted with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. Discussions called for “faster and stronger progress” for women and girls, and “the urgent realization of women’s and girl’s human rights” and gender equality. Participants recognized the region’s focus on combating violence against women, women’s economic empowerment and political participation. Meeting co-chair Pascale Baeriswyl, State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, emphasized women’s rights as a development issue, telling delegates that without fulfilling SDG 5 (gender equality), “no other SDG will be achieved by 2030.” Åsa Regnér, UN Women, identified Beijing+25 and the SDGs as a “unique opportunity to accelerate efforts, strengthen our partnerships and mobilize all of society” to fulfill longstanding commitments to women and girls.

Participants said progress in women’s political participation “remains uneven and particularly low at the local level,” but recognized an increase in the representation of women in national parliaments over the past five years in the UNECE region. Finland, Norway and Sweden each have more than 40% women among members of parliament, and an additional 16 countries have more than 30% women. Albania, France, Italy and Montenegro showed more than a 10% increase in the number of women parliamentarians. 

On gender equality in education, participants recognized a need to adopt equitable and comprehensive policies to prevent gender discrimination and dismantle barriers to education and lifelong learning. They also called for increased action to encourage women and girls to enter male-dominated fields, as the subjects studied by women and men at the tertiary level “reflect stereotypes of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ subject areas.” Women remain a minority among information and communications technology (ICT) students in the region as well as in the engineering, manufacturing and construction (EMC) fields.

On other issues, participants:

  • concluded that progress to prevent and combat violence against women “remains weak,” and emerging challenges, such as cyber-stalking and trolling, require adequate policy responses;
  • recognized efforts to support women’s inclusion in the workforce but said gaps in policies and their implementation impede progress;
  • identified a lack of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment as a major barrier to gender equality; and
  • recognized insufficient gender disaggregated data collection as a key barrier to evidence-based policymaking.

They also concluded that climate change and environmental protection represent the areas with the least advances across the region, with few countries adopting meaningful policies and laws in these fields. [UNECE Press Release] [UN Women Press Release] [UNECE Press Release on Gender Equality in Education] [UNECE Press Release on Gender Equality in Political Representation

The Africa regional review took place from 27 October to 1 November 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, co-organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UN Women and the African Union Commission (AUC). The ministerial segment of the meeting called for moving from commitment to action and seizing opportunities to advance women’s economic empowerment. Thokozile Ruzvidzo, UNECA, recognized the region’s progress over the last 25 years but called for moving “much faster to address systemic challenges.” She said digital technologies have the potential to increase productivity for women and contribute to protecting their working conditions, urging Ministers to embrace, harness and scale up such technologies. The meeting also discussed the need to invest in women’s economic empowerment and women’s health, and recognized a need to mobilize increased resources to design and implement appropriate policies.

Participants agreed on the ‘Addis Ababa Declaration on Beijing+25,’ by which Ministers and government representatives reaffirm their commitment to realizing the 2030 Agenda, the AU’s Agenda 2063 and other instruments aimed at promoting and realizing gender equality and women’s empowerment. They observe that quality education is “a necessary precondition” to address Africa’s high levels of unemployment and informality, and note that promotion of continued education for girls, including persons with disability, is being addressed and incentivized in a number of countries.

The Declaration recognizes progress in, inter alia: maternal mortality; advocacy on elimination of violence against women; and legislative, policy and programmatic efforts to fulfill women’s right to education. The Declaration notes with concern the inequality of opportunities faced by women, which exacerbates their vulnerability to poverty, and the burden of unpaid care work, higher unemployment and working poverty faced by women in Africa. The Declaration also expressed concern on: women’s tenure security and rights; women’s representation and participation in decision-making at all levels, including in climate change prevention response and mitigation; and the production, use and management of sex-disaggregated and gender-sensitive data. [UNECA Press Release] [UNECA Press Release on Day 2] [UNECA Press Release on Opening]

The UN Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) held an expert group meeting to discuss the regional report on progress in September 2019, and will hold a high-level conference on progress on 28 November 2019. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will hold its review meeting from 27-29 November 2019, preceded by a CSO Forum for the review from 24-26 November, in Bangkok, Thailand. The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has begun collecting reports from Member States in preparation for a regional report. [ECLAC Webpage on Regional Review

CSW 64 will convene from 9-20 March 2020, in New York, US. [ENB coverage of the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995]

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