GEF Paris: Six Reflections From the Women Deliver Team

Women Deliver shares six top-line reflections at the close of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris.

GEF Paris Opening Ceremony speakers take the stage for a group photo.

1. USD 40 Billion Pledged to Advance Gender Equality Over the Next Five Years

USD 40 billion in investments were made by 1,000 multisector stakeholders, or commitment-makers, including USD 21 billion from the public sector, USD 4.5 billion from philanthropy, USD 13 billion from the private sector, and USD 1.3 billion from UN entities.

Specifically, Heads of State and government representatives from Argentina, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Kenya, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Maldives, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States (among others) announced impressive national policy and resource commitments toward gender equality, particularly to end gender-based violence. Notably, the World Bank announced a commitment of USD 4.2 billion to invest in programs in 12 African States. The United States announced the establishment of a Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund — with a commitment of USD 100 million in 2021 and a request of USD 200 million in the President’s next Fiscal Budget — to advance economic security for girls and women globally, prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and support underserved and marginalized populations. Finally, UNFPA unveiled 12 collective commitments to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.

Philanthropic organizations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (USD 2.1 billion), the Children’s Investment Fund (USD 500 million), Co-Impact (the development of a new Fund with the ambition to raise USD 1 billion), the Ford Foundation (USD 420 million), the Open Society Foundations (USD 100 million), Prospera (an increase in funding to Women’s Funds from 1% to 10%), the Rockefeller Foundation (USD 30 million), and Women’s Funding Network (USD 300 million) also made important financial commitments to advance girls’ and women’s health and rights and gender equality.

Several private sector partners, including Paypal (USD 100 million), Procter & Gamble (USD 10 billion to advance women’s economic justice and rights through its global value chain), and Unilever (USD 2 billion to diverse suppliers) contributed both financial and programmatic commitments.

Additionally, in response to an open letter signed by more than 200 influential women calling for an end to online abuse, chief executives at Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter said that they would commit to improving reporting systems.

As this historic moment comes to a close, it is paramount that we ensure that the financial resources flow to the feminist movements around the world, and particularly in low-and middle-income countries who are — and have long been — making change happen. Grassroots women’s rights organizations that deliver this work have traditionally received only 1% of development aid for gender equality. First and foremost, sustainable and flexible funding for gender equality must go to feminist movements for catalytic change to happen.

2. The Power of Civil Society, Particularly Feminist Movements

Alongside the commitments from the public sector, philanthropy, and the private sector, 440 civil society and 94 youth-led organizations also shared commitments with the power to move the needle on gender equality. Notable commitments include CAREs commitment to invest USD 130 million to support girl and women leaders through savings and solidarity groups, as well as local women-led humanitarian organizations focusing on girls’ and women’s rights; Malala Fund’s pledge to award USD 20 million to girls’ education activists and to co-create a quality education agenda with girls around the world; and the International Center for Research on Women’s launch of the Global Partner Network for Feminist Foreign Policy — made up of a growing global partner network of governments and civil society organizations committed to advancing feminist foreign policy. A number of game-changing, non-financial commitments to advance feminist policy were also made, most notably by Equal Measures 2030, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Plan International, and the Women’s Refugee Commission toward accelerating access to sexual and reproductive health services, tackling harmful gender norms, and preventing gender-based violence.

To address deep-seated gender inequities, countries need intersectional and disaggregated data to focus efforts and track progress. This means both filling current data gaps to capture real challenges and progress and ensuring that existing data are usable and accessible. That’s why we’re also particularly excited about Data2X’s commitment to monitor and showcase all gender data commitments made during the Forum in order to cultivate accountability, knowledge-sharing, and solutions for advancing gender data.

3. Ensuring Inclusion and Accessibility

More than 50,000 people from a broad range of sectors and geographies convened both in person, in Paris, and virtually. Thanks to the rich and diverse contributions of women’s rights organizations and movements, youth-led and LGBTQIA+ organizations, indigenous leaders and communities, government, private sector, and philanthropic leaders, among others, the Forum was a turning point for multi-stakeholder engagement.

GEF Event: Addressing violence against trans women in Latin America and the Caribbean. From left to right, top to bottom: Marcela Romero, Mónica Linares, Nadir Cardozo, Miluska Luzquinos.

More attention must be paid, both at the GEF and other global convenings, to how different groups are marginalized within conversations. Marginalized groups must be brought to the front and center of our collective efforts. Processes must include all girls and women, in all their intersecting identities, inclusive of LGBTQIA+ identity, race, class, disability, indigeneity, and other identity factors. Days before GEF, Women Deliver joined women, feminist, and LGBTQIA+ organizations to reaffirm what we believe are core feminist principles for the achievement of gender equality, reinforcing the place that trans, intersex, and non-binary people hold in feminist movements. We also joined disability advocates in raising concerns about accessibility at the Forum, and supported youth leaders in demanding the inclusion and co-leadership of young people throughout the deliberations during this important political moment.

Despite these efforts, feminists with disabilities, sex workers, trans and intersex advocates, and feminists from the Asia/Pacific region — among others — did not have the same opportunities to attend and participate in the events as others. Even with many opportunities to expand access due to its virtual platform, the Forum’s accessibility was limited. We stand in solidarity with Women Enabled International as they lead the charge in drawing attention to these shortcomings, and we ask and invite leaders of GEF to recognize these issues, and guarantee more inclusive convenings going forward as part of the Forum’s five-year framework.

4. Young Feminists Spoke Truth to Power, and Demanded Real Co-leadership

GEF Opening Ceremony: From left to right, top to bottom: Aya Chebbi, Yande Banda, Julieta Martinez, Shantel Marekera.

Young people took the mic throughout GEF, making a strong case for intergenerational, feminist co-leadership — not just inclusion. Throughout the Forum, young people demonstrated the highest expectation for policies and programs that are co-created and co-led by the very people who ultimately bear the consequences of action or inaction on gender equality. The young leaders who spoke at the Forum’s Opening Ceremony, such as Yande Banda, Aya Chebbi, Julieta Martinez, and Shantel Marekera, affirmed that youth cannot inherit systems they did not co-design, and demanded that intergenerational co-leadership be part of all aspects of decision-making in order to build forward equitably.

Women Deliver and the Adolescent Girls Investment Plan (AGIP) hosted a session titled “Adolescents lead the dialogue on accountability for Gender Equality,” involving an intergenerational dialogue between UN Women and the GE Youth Task Force (YTF). During the session, youth leaders called for a world where we are implementing the actions we are discussing today at GEF with them, as co-leaders. UN Women also announced the launch of an Adolescent Advisory Committee to help support the centering of adolescents in the post-Paris GEF process.

It’s time that we follow the lead of young people, shift away from top-down approaches once and for all, and equip youth-led organizations with the resources — including sustained and flexible funding — needed to ensure robust youth engagement and co-leadership as the world comes together to achieve gender equality.

5. Key Issues Areas: SRHR, Economic Justice & Rights, and Climate Action

GEF Event: My Body is My Own. From left to right: Natalia Kanem, Lucas Ixchel, Carlos Acosta, Muthoni Enid, Alm Ericson Janine.

The GEF also saw concrete actions outlined for advancing progress on gender equality within the themes of the six GEF Action Coalitions.

SRHR: Multiple stakeholders reaffirmed that bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are vital for everyone, especially girls, women, and marginalized populations, including LGBTQIA+ individuals. Strong commitments were made for SRHR by the governments of Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Norway, and Sweden, among others. Announcements included the launch of the SRHR Acceleration Plan by the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents (GFF), in partnership with Canada, Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Acceleration Plan aims to expand access to family planning for more than 25 million additional adolescents and women; integrate comprehensive SRHR services for health systems in at least 20 additional countries; catalyze increased and more efficient financing for SRHR; advance legal and policy reforms in 10 countries to create more opportunities for girls, adolescents and women to access SRHR services and information; and increase financial support to youth-and women-led organizations, networks, and movements by at least USD 3 million per year.

Economic Justice & Rights: INMUJERES Mexico and UN Women engaged diverse commitment makers and partners, including the International Domestic Workers Federation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Labour Organization, and the governments of Canada and the United States in the Global Alliance for Care, a global initiative to address the disproportionate burden care has on girls and women worldwide. The Global Alliance for Care now includes more than 39 countries, in addition to civil society partners.

Climate Action: WEDO, IUCN and other key partners launched the Gender Environment Data Alliance (GEDA) to advance gender-just climate action at all levels through improved accessibility and understanding, and the application of data & knowledge. Sharing a joint commitment of USD 100 million — Greengrants Fund and The Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action will resource feminist and grassroots organizations that work directly on climate justice. The Green Climate Fund committed to ensuring USD 10 billion in climate financing per year benefitting girls and women via the implementation of its Gender Policy, direct engagement with women’s organizations, and direct finance channels. Strong commitments were also made by Costa Rica, Maldives, UNFCCC, and UNDP, among others.

COVID-19: And of course, the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on girls and women worldwide and the resulting increase in gender inequities resounded throughout the GEF, emphasizing the urgent need for policies and investments. The Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative (GEHCWI), launched by France, the World Health Organization, and Women in Global Health earlier this year, garnered multiple commitments from governments and civil society toward increasing the proportion of women health and care workers in leadership roles, recognizing the value of unpaid health and care work and the importance of equal pay, protecting women in health and care against sexual harassment and violence at work, and ensuring safe and decent working conditions for all health workers.

6. Real — and lasting — change requires accountability

GEF Event: Adolescents Lead the Dialogue on Accountability for Gender Equality. From left to right, top to bottom: Oindrila Ghosh, Chamathya Fernanco, Thubelihle Nkiwane, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

As the Forum comes to a close, we know it is imperative that commitments be matched by accountability which includes civil society organizations and young people, that gender metrics and frameworks be applied to track progress toward the achievement of the targets listed in Action Coalition blueprints, and that, together, we develop key policy windows/moments to report on commitments. This should include building in space to regularly share progress, failures, learnings, and strategies to adapt and stay on track to achieve gender equality, across every measure of development. Real — and lasting — progress toward a gender-equal world, and the transformation of words into broad-scale action depend on it.

Women Deliver an unwavering advocate for girls and women. We believe that when the world invests in girls and women, everybody wins!