This summer saw the return of events around the world dedicated to feminist funding, and chief among them was the annual #GenerationEquality Forum, held online and in Paris from June 3oth to July 2nd.
Topics ranged from progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the pandemic’s impact on women’s empowerment to notes on our progress from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The ultimate attitude of the Forum was one of anticipation and excitement: as the impact of the pandemic lessens around the world, we can look forward to a time of progress toward #GenerationEquality goals and recoup the social losses from COVID-19.
Over the three days of the #GenerationEquality Forum, a combination of fundraising efforts, corporate pledges, nonprofit campaign announcements, and other donations resulted in a total of $40 billion pledged to women and girls.
Celebrating such a large commitment is an excellent way to approach the next step of our journey, but how do we guarantee that the major players of feminist philanthropy — so to speak — put their money where their mouths are?
The solution here is accountability: while 2021 will be a time to celebrate a return to normalcy and an (eventual) build in momentum, this also needs to be a time of learning from our collective mistakes, recovering from COVID-19 setbacks, and setting sights on a future that truly lives up to #GenerationEquality’s ideal future.
What is #GenerationEquality and the Generation Equality Forum?
As a continuation of goals and expectations from 1995’s Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, #GenerationEquality is a commitment from UN Women and other partner organizations to further the goals of the original 1995 conference.
Launched in May 2019, #GenerationEquality aims to “bring together the next generations of women’s rights activists—many of whom may not have been born in 1995—with the gender equality advocates and visionaries who were instrumental in creating the Beijing Platform for Action more than two decades ago, to accelerate efforts to make gender equality and women’s rights a lived reality.”
Since its initial launch, #GenerationEquality has led to mass partnerships and media opportunities for organizations like Women Moving Millions, the Women’s Funding Network, and Equality Now. Working together with UN Women, these organizations have pledged — and worked toward — an equitable future for women around the world.
Obviously, COVID-19 changed some of #GenerationEquality’s loftier goals. Organizations devoted to women’s empowerment were forced to pivot to respond to more immediate emergencies developing in the midst of the pandemic. But now that the end of the road is in sight, events like the #GenerationEquality Forum present new opportunities for organizations to refine their commitments and look forward to new progress.
Recent conversations around #GenerationEquality began with a series of discussions in Mexico City during March of 2021. Held in Paris, France and attended online from June 30th to July 2nd, Forum Génération Égalité culminated the forward-thinking strategy sessions by convening “governments, international organizations, civil society, youth, the private sector and activists from the entire world to make concrete, ambitious and sustainable commitments towards achieving gender equality.”
One of the most exciting aspects of the #GenerationEquality Forum was the opportunity for leading organizations to confer directly with UN Women member states and international leaders. Not only did the Forum present the opportunity to hear how we’re doing and where we’re going next, it also opened critical conversations with international governments and power players to lead the charge into future progress.
All Eyes on the Major Players
#GenerationEquality commits to lofty goals indeed — and the partnerships, promises, and pledges that came out of the three-day Parisian event offer an encouraging glimpse at the future of feminist funding. Below, we’ve collected some of the most widely touted campaigns announced as part of the #GenerationEquality Forum.
Data2X: Closing the #GenderData Gap
Espousing “bold commitments to gender data”, collaborative technical and advocacy platform Data2X announced a new campaign leveraging “gender data” to uncover gender inequality, illuminate solutions, and monitor progress toward gender equity and SDGs around the world.
Gender data refers to “data that is disaggregated by sex, and reflects gender issues, including roles, relations, and inequalities. It can be both quantitative and qualitative, and collection methods account for stereotypes, social norms, and other factors that may introduce bias.”
In other words, Data2X’s goal is to compile data and information on the gender disparities around the world, leveraging their research projects to assist other organizations in large-scale efforts for feminist funding. Data2X aims to work not just with philanthropic organizations but with governments, the general public, individual donors, and the private sector to develop unique solutions for gendered issues.
As part of its #GenderEquality commitment, Data2X identified a $450 million underfunding gap for core gender data systems around the world: as of 2020, only ~40% of countries monitored gendered SDGs with data-driven collections, and an even smaller percentage managed to collect that data regularly.
To bridge this gap, Data2X’s #genderdata campaign focuses on activating public attention to elevate support for gender data in all campaigns — Data2X urges “all commitment makers to pledge to close critical gender data gaps and to use gender data to guide decision-making.”
Equality Now: Leveraging Legislative Impact for Women and Girls
Equality Now, known for its position on the frontlines of legislative action against violence and discrimination toward women and girls, had a key role in the development and roll-out of the #GenerationEquality Forum. The organization presented two of the Forum’s forty events, led by Global Executive Director Yasmeen Hassan and Director of Equality Now’s Africa Office Faiza Mohamed.
Equality Now also found opportunities to be proactive in the space between the Mexico City and Paris GEF sessions. Leveraging connections with national governments, Equality Now opened conversations with the Kenyan government on eliminating gender-based violence (GBV) and female genital mutilation (FGM), including roundtable discussions and social media influencer activations through a partnership with Better4Kenya.
Furthermore, Equality Now used the #GenerationEquality Forum to redefine its own commitments to SDG 5 and beyond through Action Coalitions. After the GEF, Equality Now will:
- Mobilize for equality in family law. Equality Now’s goal is to reform progressive family law around the world, in partnership with UN Women, FEMNET, and other founding members of the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law.
- Emphasize the role of law in the digital age. Gender-based violence can be as prevalent online as it is in interpersonal relationships. In response to online harm against women and girls, Equality Now will work with digital technology companies, governments, and members of the WeProtect Global Alliance to create and roll out online infrastructure dedicated to the protection and empowerment of women and girls online.
- Secure integrity and dignity for women and girls. Recognizing gendered and sexual violence as a “denial of and impact [against women and girls’] bodily autonomy”, Equality Now will leverage its ongoing programmatic and advocacy interventions to reposition the international conversation around women and girls’ roles in society, as well as attempts of societies and criminals to exert control over women’s bodies and sexuality. Additional partners for this campaign include the End FMG/C European Network, the US End FGM/C Network, and the Brussels’ Call Coalition for Europe free from sexual exploitation.
- End impunity for sexual violence. Possibly the organization’s most revolutionary campaign, Equality Now will continue their partnership with marginalized women and girls around the world to eliminate legal impunity for sexual violence. The goal here is to advocate for stronger laws, practices, and international and regional laws and standards, particularly in areas of Eurasia, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America where sexual violence is often swept under the legislative rug.
- Lead the charge toward an equal and intersectional future. Looking to the future, Equality Now will leverage its influence and impact to aid in the development of strong, diverse women’s coalitions around the world. (This includes additional work with the Solidarity of African Women’s Rights network and work with marginalized women in tribal communities to organize and advocate for justice.)
- Respond to the recommendations of its internal Anti-Racism Task Force. Formed in 2020, this unique task force represents Equality Now’s commitment “to become an even more intersectional feminist organization”. The Task Force will investigate Equality Now’s internal operations and make recommendations to improve procedures that live up to organizational values (Inclusiveness, Integrity, Perseverance, and Tenacity).
Ford Foundation at #GenerationEquality: $420 Million for Post-Pandemic Progress
Over the next five years, the Ford Foundation will dedicate $420 million “to tackle gender inequality around the world which has been further exacerbated by the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Like Equality Now, the Ford Foundation’s pledge is multi-faceted, focusing on issue areas such as gender-based violence, the care-based economy, workplace equality, and resource allocation for international feminist movements and women’s rights organizations.
This $420 million commitment exists in part due to the Foundation’s sale of $1 billion in social bonds over 2020. The organization’s goal in this monumental campaign was to create funding capacity for social organizations after the pandemic, which has led (or will lead) to an estimated 47 million additional women pushed into extreme poverty.
“Twenty-six years after the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, public discourse on gender equality has not been matched by action. Instead, COVID-19 has only accelerated gender inequality for millions of women and girls who bear the burden of the crisis,” said Nicolette Naylor, Ford Foundation international program director for Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice. “As some parts of the world start to emerge from the pandemic, it is essential that gender equality is at the heart of building back better. It’s time to stop talking and start funding the organizations that are driving change and the necessary progress on global gender equality. We encourage others to join us in these efforts to make meaningful and lasting change.”
The Foundation is a co-leader of the Forum’s Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence, and as such will allocate $159 million specifically to organizations fighting GBV.
Women’s Funding Network: $300 Million and Internal Diversity
During the Forum, the Women’s Funding Network (WFN) announced a five-year commitment of $300 million toward economic justice and rights for women and girls.
“WFN is on the front lines pushing for gender equality and we are committed to being a catalyst for lasting change for women and their girls,” said WFN President and CEO Elizabeth Barajas-Román. “To work toward our commitment goal, our network and their local and global partners will collectively move strategic investments that reform policy, build lasting livelihoods for women, and advance their economic opportunities.”
An encouraging first step in WFN’s new direction is the decision to diversify the network’s internal leadership. Among WFN’s diversity goals are a commitment to increase the percentage of women executive leaders of color from 30% to 50%. Currently, WFN’s women executive leaders of color represent “the largest group of non-white executive leadership in the philanthropy sector”, collectively managing over $140 million in grants per year.
By expanding its own internal commitment to leadership diversity, WFN will be leading by example for other organizations dedicated to similar goals.
Women Moving Millions: Give Bold, Get Equal
Finally, in a monumental update from a campaign we’ve followed closely at Philanthropy Women, Women Moving Millions (WMM) utilized the #GenerationEquality Forum to celebrate a major milestone in the organization’s Give Bold, Get Equal campaign.
Initially designed to raise $100 million in funding for women and girls by the year 2022, the Give Bold, Get Equal campaign has officially outstretched its goal in just nine months. The $100 million commitment was drawn from the WMM community of nearly 350 women, allowing the organization to shatter its own glass ceiling in a campaign that will continue well into 2022.
“We are incredibly grateful and emboldened by this response from our community,” wrote Executive Director Sarah Haacke Byrd in a July 1st press release. “The success of this campaign in such a short time period shows the power of feminist philanthropy. We are taking a huge step forward towards funding for gender equality, but the key is momentum. Despite the increased attention to the inequities that impact women and girls worldwide, the funding gap persists. We call upon every person to join us and give boldly to get equal.”
“While we celebrate this extraordinary investment, the work must continue,” she added. “The crisis is too big, the urgency immense. As long as the gap in funding remains, we leave too many vulnerable.”
Accountability as the Path to the Finish Line
#GenerationEquality is an answer to a problem: the goals outlined in the 1995 Beijing convention have not been met, and now it’s up to our major philanthropic players to pick up the slack.
To the major players, we admire your perseverance and dedication to realigning strategic goals following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, now more than ever, international attention — both media and public — must be focused on these organizations to guarantee they uphold their ends of the bargain.
We look forward to seeing your leadership and accomplishments from the Generation Equality Forum take effect in 2021 and beyond!
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