International Women’s Day: progress on gender equality remains slow

© UNICEF/Jannatul Mawa
Women in Bangladesh stand up for gender equality.

Women’s Rights in Review, 25 years after Beijing takes stock of how the landmark gender equality plan, the Beijing Platform for Action, is being implemented and calls for greater parity and justice.

Women’s Rights in Review takes a closer look 🔍 at how far we’ve really come since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago. 

Gender equality: Women’s rights in review 25 years after Beijing | Digital library: Publications

Marking the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as the first time that progress on the implementation of the Platform is reviewed in light of the 2030 Agenda…

The report finds faltering progress and notes that hard-won advances are being reversed by rampant inequality, climate change, conflict and exclusionary politics.

The review highlights a lack of effective action to boost women’s representation in key decision-making and warns that the Platform will never be realized if all women and girls are not acknowledged and prioritized.

No country has achieved gender equality

“The review of women’s rights shows that despite some progress, no country has achieved gender equality”, said UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Maintaining that “equality isn’t just one-quarter of the seats at the tables of power”, she said, however, that was “the current reality of women’s representation, across the board”.

Men hold 75 per cent of all parliamentary seats, 73 per cent of managerial positions, are make up 70 per cent of climate negotiators as well as most peacemaking roles.

“Only half is an equal share and only equal is enough”, stressed the UN Women chief.

A gloomy picture

  • Over the past 20 years, progress on women’s access to paid work has ground to a halt as they continue to shoulder the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work – less than two thirds between the ages of 25-54 are in the labour force.
  • Nearly one-in-five women have faced violence from an intimate partner in the past year, fuelled by new technology, such as through cyber-harassment, for which policy solutions are largely absent.
  • Some 32 million girls are still not in school.
  • Men still control three-quarters of parliamentary seats.
  • Women are largely excluded from peace processes.

Change is possible amid ‘unprecedented opportunity’

Despite unprecedented global challenges, the report also proves that positive change is possible, by citing feminist movements globally; illustrating the success of women’s collective actions for accountability on crimes against them; and showcasing successful initiatives in scaling up public services to meet women’s rights – from increasing access to contraception and childcare, to reducing domestic violence and increasing women’s participation in politics and peacebuilding.

Women’s Rights in Review also highlights advances since the Beijing Platform was adopted, namely more girls in school, fewer women dying in childbirth, more women in parliaments and a greater number of laws supporting women’s equality.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said, “2020 presents an unprecedented opportunity to turn things around for current and future generations of women and girls”.

To accelerate progress during the UN Decade of Action, she pointed to her agency’s Generation Equality campaign

“to deliver game-changing results to advance equality for women and girls”.

To step up systemic and lasting change, gender equality must be better financed to harness technology and innovation and ensure the inclusive development of women and girls who face multiple forms of discrimination.

2020: A milestone year for gender equality

In addition to the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference, the year will feature:

  • 64th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
  • Generation Equality Forum in Mexico in May, and France, in July.
  • High-level meeting of the 75th General Assembly on gender equality in September.
  • 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in October.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals five-year milestone.
  • 10th anniversary of UN Women.