Written by Carolyne Ajema and Serah Nduta, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
2020 marked the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a progressive agreement to end gender inequality and advance women's rights. While many countries worldwide have made strides towards gender equality, no country can yet claim to have achieved this goal. And while the rallying call has been on 'building back better,' what the world needs to focus on is building forward better by deliberately safeguarding women's rights and bringing an end to gender-based violence (GBV).
A major focus in the coming weeks will be on the Generation Equality Forum, with one aim, to catalyze collective action to influence national and global priorities and investments in eradicating GBV. However, with 1 in 3 women globally experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime – violence deeply rooted in gender inequality – the task that lies ahead is extraordinarily difficult. And while the clock ticks, the violence against women and girls takes different forms online and off and has a ripple effect felt across individuals and their families, communities, and societies. Significant efforts have been made by organizations and some governments towards GBV prevention, response, risk mitigation, and advocacy; however, far more needs to be done to support and scale those efforts.
Globally, GBV interventions remain siloed and underfunded. Some governments have made efforts to address GBV by institutionalizing legal and policy frameworks. However, these frameworks have not translated to meaningful change at the community and grassroots level in addressing retrogressive cultural practices and persistent gender inequalities. Women's rights organizations (WROs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) are important contributors to policy development and cascading government and development partner goals and priorities to the grassroots level. However, efforts by these organizations seem not to attain the desired widespread impact, partially due to limited and sustained investments in the sector limiting their ability to hold governments accountable.
Vital Engagement of Women Rights and Civil Society Organizations
In Kenya, the government recently made ambitious commitments as part of the lead-up to the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, France, which takes place from 30 June – 2 July 2021. The commitments aim to address gender inequality and end all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by 2026. To ensure commitments like Kenya's are met, governments need to consider the insights of WROs and CSOs and integrate their contributions into actionable solutions. The inputs of WROs and CSOs are vital in successfully addressing systemic and pervasive inequities. Governments should match these inputs with substantial, long term investments, a roadmap outlining measurable goals and benchmarks, and accountability mechanisms.
Generation Equality Forum and the Road Ahead
As the world converges (both virtually and in person) in Paris for the Forum at the end of the month, this could be a pivotal moment for addressing gender inequality 25+ years after the Beijing Declaration – progress made so far, pathways to disrupting the systemic barriers curtailing that progress, and ways to integrate and amplify the voices of the CSOs and WROs. Government-level commitments by themselves are not enough to advance gender equality and eradicate GBV. What we need are commitments paired with transformative actions and clear accountability plans.
Women's rights organizations play a key role in shaping the 2021 global, regional, and national commitments. And the success of the Generation Equality Forum rests on whether holistic and inclusive approaches are taken to advance gender equality. This calls for increased accountability, participation, and support to autonomous girl-led women's rights organizations (WRO) working to address GBV. Over 25 years after Beijing, we cannot wait any longer. We will fall short in achieving the bold commitments by not being all inclusive. We therefore call on the governments, development partners, and the private sector to deliberately increase investments to the Women’s Rights Organizations and Civil Society Organizations as key allies in the eradication of gender-based violence.