2020: An auspicious year for women’s rights and gender equality

published 30 October 2019 updated 30 October 2019

2020, a year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the most progressive global blueprint for women’s rights ever adopted by governments.

At the United Nations (UN) Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China, in 1995, the Declaration and Platform for Action to advance the rights of women and girls was signed and adopted by 189 UN member states. The Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) is recognisedas the most ambitious commitment that governments have made to date to the full realisation of women’s rights and gender equality across all spheres, sectors and domains of human life.

Regional UN agencies are currently hosting reviews of the extent to which countries have lived up to the promises made a quarter of a century ago. The regional UNECE review process for Europe and North America is currently underway in Geneva, Switzerland (29-30 October). Fifty-one out of 56 UNECE member states have submitted national reviews, and a one-day civil society forum was organised on 28 October ahead of the formal meetings. The forum was attended by organisationsfrom 48 countries in the region.

“More just has to be done!”

In the opening panel held on 28 October, Asa Regner, Assistant UN Secretary-General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director, stated, as many other speakers did throughout the day, that there has indeed been progress on implementing the BPfA, but it is uneven and too slow, and there has been too little financing made available by governments.

She went on highlighting some of the gains in the region since 1995:

  • The majority of university graduates are women in many member states;
  • Many member states have adopted measures to enable women and men to be parents and also continue participating in the labourmarket; and
  • Countries have adopted laws to address gender-based violence, which didn’t exist in 1995.

However, at the same time, Regner stressed that, in many countries in the region:

  • The education system seems to “educate women into subordination”;
  • Women don’t participate equally in the labourforce, in spite of their superior success in education; and
  • The rates of gender-based violence and femicide are alarmingly high.

Lack of progress in these areas, she argued, is due to lack of investment and insufficient political will to truly make sure that legislation and policies lead to substantive change in women’s and girls’ lives. She concluded: “This is a rights issue, a power issue, a democracy issue, and much more just has to be done”.

Click here for more information about the Generation Equality Forums, convened by UN Women in 2020.