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The 2020 Generation Equality Forum: 25 Years After the Beijing Declaration

UN Women 2020 Generation Equality poster

By Lindsey Mayer

Women's rights groups at the United Nations are gearing up for the landmark year of 2020. 2020 marks a special year for the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). In May, the Generation Equality Forum will start in Mexico City, Mexico from May 7-8 and end with a conference in Paris, France from July 7-10. A goal of the forum is to connect young organizers to older trailblazers through issues of gender equality. This will hopefully result in action for gender equality. The forum hopes to “be a global public conversation for urgent action and accountability for gender equality, celebrate the power of women’s rights activism, feminist solidarity and youth leadership to achieve transformative change.” The forum will feature representatives from government, trade unions, and businesses.

The Generation Equality Forum will call for urgent action on achieving equality.  According to a 2019 report by UN Women, “there is not a single country that can claim gender equality.” The Forum will focus on solutions to numerous obstacles that exist globally. One major obstacle is creating equality for marginalized women and girls. The Generation Equality campaign  demands equal economic and social opportunities for women while calling for an end to all forms of violence against women and girls.

The Generation Equality Forum falls on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Beijing Declaration was a pivotal moment in the fight for gender equality. The Beijing Declaration was developed at the Fourth World Conference on Women and was adopted by 189 governments. The Declaration focused on 12 priorities:  

  1. Poverty, 

  2. Education and training, 

  3. Health, 

  4. Violence,

  5. Armed conflict, 

  6. Economy, 

  7. Power and decision-making,

  8. Institutional mechanisms, 

  9. Human rights,

  10. Media,

  11. Environment, and 

  12. The girl child “subjected to horrific practices, such as female genital mutilation, son preference – often resulting in female infanticide – as well as child marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse.”

The Beijing Declaration serves as a blueprint for protecting the rights and health of women. Although the Beijing Declaration made monumental progress towards equality, there is still so much work to be done. Globally, women work more and earn less. UN Women see the Generation Equality Forum as a platform to make waves on key gender equality issues. The Forum will feature key figures who helped create the Beijing Platform for Action. As the United Nations celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, made it clear that there will be a focus on sustainability at UN Women in the upcoming year.

A critical feature of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is their interdependence. While Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 13 may not seem to have much in common on the surface, “achieve gender equality and empower women and girls” (SDG 5) and “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” (SDG 13) are deeply connected in many ways. Women are important actors in finding solutions to environmental issues. At it’s September 9 session, UN Women’s Executive Board made it clear that women should take on leadership roles in climate action. Women are disproportionately affected by climate change.  One major issue women face is water security: Water scarcity increases drought and “disenfranchises women farmers, who are the majority of the agricultural workforce in Africa and elsewhere.” Since women will feel the effects of climate change first hand, they must also play a large role in creating climate policy.

UU-UNO Intergenerational Spring Seminar 2019 logo

For Unitarian Universalists, this year’s United Nations Sunday is an opportunity to engage with topics relating to the UN Women’s Generation Equity Forum. The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) invites UU congregations each year to hold a worship service dedicated to the United Nations; this year’s UN Sunday theme is Equity in Action: Gender in an Intersecting World. The UU-UNO approaches its work on gender equity at the United Nations with an understanding that “ending discrimination and violence against women, achieving trans rights, and advancing equity for people of all sexual orientations [are] related and mutually supporting efforts, all related to dismantling patriarchy.”

Congregational UN Sunday services are an opportunity for congregations to connect the work they are doing locally for gender equity with the global work of the United Nations and the UU-UNO. The UN Sunday resource packet created by the UU-UNO urges congregations to incorporate UN initiatives such as the Beijing Declaration and UN Declaration on Human Rights, while also connecting these declarations with LGBTQ rights, which are so often neglected in gender-related conversations at the UN that tend to focus on “women.” Along with our partners in the LGBTQ+ community, the UU-UNO pushes the UN to broaden its understanding of who we fight for in the struggle for gender equality. As we mark 25 years since the Beijing Declaration, it is important to acknowledge how far the world has come on gender-related human rights issues, and how much still remains to be achieved.

About the Author

Lindsey Mayer

Lindsey Mayer is an undergraduate at SUNY New Paltz majoring in International Relations with a minor in Art Studio. She is the Climate Justice Intern at the Unitarian Universalist Association United Nations Office. She is interested in public policy, disarmament, social justice, and city planning.


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