UNGA CONFERENCE 2020 - Panel 1: Women Empowerment and Gender Equality: 25 Years after the Beijing Declaration

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UNGA CONFERENCE 2020 - Panel 1: Women Empowerment and Gender Equality: 25 Years after the Beijing Declaration


Panel 1: Women Empowerment and Gender Equality: 25 Years after the Beijing Declaration


Panel 1 addressed current challenges and constraints on women empowerment and gender equality in policymaking and decision-making mechanisms with a comparative analysis of how technological advancements influence women empowerment with opportunities and challenges, and understand how women’s empowerment, leadership, and participation contribute to social and economic development.

The Panel 1 started with Opening Remarks by Mr. Mehmet Kilic, President of the Journalists and Writers Foundation: “Women empowerment and gender equality are not a singular issue that emphasizes only on the rights of the women. Rather promoting and protecting women’s rights ensure peaceful and inclusive societies and contributes to social and economic development.” The UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres made “gender parity and equality” a priority in his agenda that turned the United Nations into a gender-equal organization with 50/50 percent representation of women and men in the senior leadership levels. This policy change in the senior leadership has inspired millions of women and girls around the world.

Donna Orender was the moderator of the Panel session and started off the session with her introductory remarks. Mr. Orender’s passionate pursuit of working on behalf of women and girls is a result of her personal journey as a professional athlete, corporate executive, leader of an iconic women’s business the WNBA, and a board member and founder of Generation W. Ms. Orender stated that COVID-19 literally turned the world upside down as the pandemic continues to impact women and girls disproportionately with inequalities, and the challenges have not lessened despite oui joined efforts. She expressed her sadness about the recent loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsbery who has been one of the champions, leaders, and warriors of women empowerment, gender equality, social justice, and equality for all.

Ms. Orender stressed the importance of including multiple stakeholders and voices in the policy development and decision-making processes that produce better results proven by research. Women are great leaders, innovators, healthcare professional and first responders to COVID-19 pandemic effectively. A person’s knowledge, skills, and talents are needed to build a competent team of responders during the times of crisis.  Read more…

Houry Geudelekian, the Chair of the NGO CSW talked about the review of the Beijing Declaration from 1995 to 2020. The NGO CSW had organized the largest gathering in March of 2020 in New York City during Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The ultimate goal is to bring voices of women and girls globally to the UN Headquarters. In March 2020, around 20,000 women signed up to come for the CSW64 events, which was going to be the second coming of Beijing Platform for Action as we celebrate the Beijing Declaration +25. NGO CSW team alone had organized 520 panel discussions in the two weeks that the CSW64 until the arrival of silent enemy Covid-19.

It was not surprising to most of us that COVID-19 has affected us so deeply because the world was not on the right track of taking care of people and the world. We were not realizing the interconnectedness; on the contrary, we were abusing this planet and each other and really buying into this patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism. So, here we are again at the UNGA Conference for rethinking, re-galvanizing, and re-bringing women and girls and our allies, our men and boys who are on board with us because we obviously cannot do this without the collaboration of men and women. Read more…

Mohna Ansari, a Member of the National Human Rights Commission of NEPAL spoke about Gender Perspectives and Women’s Leadership in Policy Making. 25 years after the Beijing Declaration, Nepal has gone through major challenges in the last two decades following a decade long conflict and a peace process, which started in 2006 that transformed the country into a secular, republican, secular state. Women had a significant role in this transformation. The first elected constituent assembly in 2008 had 197 women members out of 601 members. The second constituent assembly had 176 of women. Nepal’s Constitution has ensured women’s representation in federal and provincial parliaments, as well as local government bodies 32 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Currently, 90 of the 275 MPs are women in Lower House. The Upper House has 22 women members of the 59 members. Six of the 10 parliamentary committee are headed by women lawmakers. Election Act has ensured 50 percent women candidates in leadership position of the local boards. In 2016, local election was elected as a deputy chair or mayor of a seven hundred local bodies of the 753, also 18 women were elected as a mayor or Chair. Based on the act, over 6500 women were elected in a local body, these are Dalit women, and we all know in South Asia that Dalits are highly oppressive caste group.

According to 2019 survey that looked over women’s representation in the parliament, Nepal ranked second in entire Asia. This is a significant achievement compared to 1999’s parliament, which only had 5.8 percent women in parliament. Reservation policy and electoral reform had been instrumental in promoting women’s participation in policymaking roles. In the Civil Service Act, women have 33 percent reservation of the total 45 percent inclusive quota. Army and Police Act has also made a reservation for women; however, the inclusion of the women from the socially excluded group is still a major challenge for us. Read more…

 Prof. Diane Elson, Emeritus Professor at the Department of Sociology from University of Essex in U.K., spoke about Inclusive Economies for Women’s Empowerment. Prof. Diane Elson discussed the meaning inclusive economies for women’s empowerment and new challenges COVID-19 pandemic posed on inclusive economies and women’s empowerment. Prof. Elson claimed that the sustainable development agenda has no goal or target that specifically focus on economic inclusion and women’s empowerment. In other words, sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth don’t actually mean women’s empowerment. SDG Goal #5 requires governments to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls but it doesn’t actually mention economic inclusion of women. However, it holds governments accountable to undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources. I think we need to focus more on the issue of rights, not just participation, to ensure that economic inclusion really empowers women.

What do we mean by inclusion? In reality, there are many forms of inclusion of women in economies that can be harmful. For instance, forcible inclusion, forced labor and modern slavery, injurious inclusion, unsafe working conditions, long and exhausting hours of work, impoverished inclusion where earnings are not above the poverty level, precarious inclusion where employment is insecure, segregated inclusion, and inclusion in low paying occupations at the bottom of the jobs hierarchy. Read more…


Diya K. Wynn, an AI/ML Ethicist in Emerging Technologies & Intelligent Platforms GSP at Amazon Web Services, talked about Technological Advancements for Women’s Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges. Ms. Wynn started her speech by sharing her story of a little girl from a single parent, poverty-stricken home in the South Bronx, in NY. She was awarded with a computer for her accomplishment in school, which fascinated her in science and technology, which opened up a world to study and pursue a career in computers and technology. In the stories she read and the movies she watched, there were no role models of women or girls with jobs and careers in computers and science. The media and the society portrayed women with roles as homemakers, teachers, and nurses.

Ms. Wynn said that her story is not uncommon to many women and girls around the world. Exposure and access to education and technology is critical in building sustainable systems, developing effective policies, and changing socio-cultural norms and patriarchal structures that are embedded in the mindset of the society towards women empowerment and gender equality. She also added that the challenges are coupled with racism and discrimination against black African American women in America. To achieve women empowerment and gender equality adopted in the Beijing Declaration and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we have to address the systemic and institutional barriers against women, girls, and people from marginalized communities to ensure equality, equity, and social justice for all worldwide. Read more…

Dr. Marina Sorokina, Head of the Department of History at Alexander Solzhenitsyn Center for the Study of the Russian Diaspora, spoke about Russia`s best practices on implementing the SDG #5: Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering all Women and Girls. Marina’s presentation gave a careful but precise reflection on women scholars in exile, women and immigration. Russians has had three major waves of migration abroad since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. During this Bolshevik Revolution and civil war many people were forced to migrate as refugees. The second wave was during the World War II and the third migration came after the Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost (1984). The underlying factor for migration of Russians out of their homeland and traditional environment was the pressure of the political persecution. They found new homes in many countries in the world, in Latin America, especially in Brazil. From these migrants a number of schools were founded and scientists have emerged from these emigrants.

It is because of these scholars in exile that attention is drawn towards, especially in relation to the larger immigration wave that hit Europe during the Nazi regime (1934-1945). The academic works have faithfully kept records of immigrants out of Europe to the rest of the world. In Contrast, there is very little scholarly information on the Russian academic migration in the 20th century. Read more…