Faith Actors at the Generation Equality Forum

Good Shepherd were pleased to joined with 30 global and regional faith actors to create a joint communique that shows our collective commitment to achieving gender equality. You can read the full communique here As you read you can listen to the reading by various representatives. The communique is entitled ‘People of Faith are Allies to Generation Equality.’ The Action Coalitions are a new impetus to address pre-existing and structural issues and know how forms of repression are interrelated and rcognise gender injustice as an intersectional issue. We are called to work in partnership for the protection and promotion of human dignity and to achieve gender justice. Good Shepherds are no strangers to this agenda addressing – Gender Based Violence and Economic Justice and Rights – two of the 6 Action Coalitions. The communique contains ten points for UN partnership with faith-based actors ranging from recognizing the unique role of religious actors, co-developing gender just policies, partnering with us to promote feminist theologies that promote equality, and increasing funding and resources to enable strategic partnerships at all levels with religious actors.

On Monday June 28th, prior to the commencement of Generation Equality Forum, A group of faith actors hosted an event entitled ‘Looking Back to Look Forward: The Role of Religious Actors in Gender Equality since the Beijing Declaration’.  The panelist included a feminist theologan Dr. Nontando Hadebe from South Africa, International Coordinator a for gender justice organization Side by Side. The event was the occasion of the launch of a report entitled “Religious Actors: Ally or Threat for achieving Gender Equality.’

Access the Report which reveals how religious actors have advanced and hindered gender equality since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. The report provides a critical and contextualized understanding of how religion and gender politics are intertwined in all countries, high and low-income alike. The report addresses how patriarchal gender norms continue to be packaged in the language of religion because it legitimizes them. Anti-rights actors are mobilizing religious language to block or even reverse progress on gender equality. Religious language can make patriarchal practices appear divinely ordained and unchangeable. Read more

Each presenter was superb in her articulation of different perspectives. Dr. Nontando Hadebe, a feminist catholic theologian from South Africa, the last panelist, spoke of her excitment at what she was hearing from Zainah Ahwar. Gender, religion and feminist theology need to generate an alternative narrative and change the ways women appropriate patriarchical religion. Patriarchy is powerful and uses its power to normalize and naturalize gender inequality. Women in turn internalize it and see it as God’s word and how things are suppose to be. Do listen to the inspiring insights of Zainah on the need to re-claim and reframe the narrative of religion and rights and uphold equality and justice. To do this is essential. It requires capacity building with knowledge, and religious literacy which critiques gender equality and rights showing how inequality and discriminatory laws and norms are socially constructed and not divine law. So, desconstruction and resonstruction are required according to the lived realities of the 21st century.

Our position papers referency patriarchy in 3 of the papers – the girl child, trafficking and prostitution. The phrase is usually couched within other phrases – systemic injustice, structural gender inequality, targeted gender violence, and dominant systems of patriarchal power. Do we consider the church to be a patriarchal system exercising power over girls and women? We even have a recommendation “Include awareness in educational programs of the cross-sectional issues that influence prostitution: migration realities, gender discrimination, unrestrained consumerism,
militarism, economic and patriarchal systems, and feminization of poverty.” Do we have the knowledge and capacity to carry out this recommendation? Another few sentences “the root causes of prostitution are tied to poverty, patriarchy, male privilege, extreme wealth, racist attitudes, militarization, ecological degradation, inadequate family support, and the demand by men for women to be available for sexual purchase. The rapid global expansion of human trafficking as a criminal industry has increased the demand for girls and women to be objects of prostitution. Likewise, lack of people-centered and rights-based migration policies increase the incidence of human trafficking and prostitution.” Without doubt we are addressing the consequences of gender inequality but are we doing this from a position of knowledge and conviction based on an updated theology of feminism that is fit for the 21st century? The term ‘human rights’ is referenced 19 times and the term ‘gender’ 17 times in the position papers? Gender is qualified with such words as inequality, violence, sensitive, discrimination, equality, outcomes, exploitation, inclusion, analysis and justice – yes gender justice!

An event I attended on the last day of Generation Equality Forum entitled ‘Advancing Gender Equality by countering the Extremist Manifesto’ was very informative. The politics of ‘anti-gender’ are rooted in extreme positions adopted by the various world religions and others who promote fear around gender and tout feminist ideologies. They are actors who are rooted in patriarchy, masculinity, and are homophobic. They put forward strategies aimed at reclaiming the gender gains that have been achieved throughout history. They seek to influence political strategy and policymakers with the ultimate goals of obstructing, criminalizing, illegalizing or limiting gender rights, sexual rights and the human rights of citizens. They are part of a larger movement that brings together groups opposed to feminism, LGBTQI rights, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and compreshensive sex education. The panelsists came from Afrcia, Europe and Latin America. It was noted that these are not merely local groups but international movements, well connected and with funding.

A very telling report that was referred to is “The Tip of the Iceberg” with a sub-title Religious Extremist Funders against Human Rights for Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Europe 2009 – 2018. It provides narratives and reports of the origin of funding. More. All of this brings me back to where I started – the necessity for us to have strong theological underpining for a 21 century world where girls and women’s rights are upheld to the benefit of the whole of humanity and the planet. This is urgent in our work with girls and indeed part of the transformative journey we are all on.

The Generation Equality Forum Paris has begun

Today, June 30 the long awaited Generation Equality Fourm with the launch of the 6 Action Coalitions, and the Compact on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action has come. While it is 9.30 am in New York it is 3.30 pm in Paris. The Opening Ceremony was very moving, and amid all the glamour, I was hearing of real issues as experienced by real girls and women in very difficult situation in different parts of the world. Girls and girls issues were well covered in the opening ceremony. We also heard of some of the commitment made towards achieving the Action Coalitions.

“Girls should be considered political beings. Girls shouldn’t be invited only for the picture, or the inspirational speech.” Julieta Martinez answerd the question posed by Hilary Clinton and continued “I am Julieta!” “We feel alone!” Julieta, a 17 year old from Chile highlighted the call for girls’ engagment and speaks for girls around the world, who just like her, feel abandoned. Girls know the problems, can and want to be part of the change. Julieta is as passionate and insightful as Hilary Clinton was 26 years ago in Beijing when she uttered that “Human Rights are Women’s Rights and Women’s Rights are Human Rights” but a lot younger! Julieta is a testimony to girl’s agency and recognizes her privilege while indicating that most girls are invisible and don’t have the tools. She recalled Malala, championing eduction for girls – a book and a pen – and I remember Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villaseñor, both girl climate activists in Sweden and New York! The Girls Open Letter to World Leaders English French Spanish is echoing the very same sentiments and Good Shepherd Girls in India and the Philippines were part of the group who penned the letter.

An actress and activist from Burkina Faso, Roukiata Ouedraogo, talked about her own experience of FGM and the regret her mother felt afterwards.  Her mother later became an advocate, setting up mico credit activities with women while establishing an association to eliminate FGM in her village.  Roukiata emphasized that FGM is a patriarchal legacy and an abomination! The eradication of harmful practices, like excision and child marriage requires the education of all!

 Roukiata Ouedraogo addressing Generation Equality Forum in Paris

The strongest call for girls’ education came from a passionate 16 year old, Yande Banda, co-chair of the Transform Education Coalition hosted by the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI). She called for girls’ meaningful representation in key decision-making spaces and ended with a call to World Leaders to stand up! “Stand up for girls’ future, girls’ funding, girls’ education, and ensure that girls are at the table.

Yande Banda calling Member States to Stand Up for Girls’ Education

The recording of the opening of the Forum is livestreamed on UN TV It is in English only and to begin to watch you must move the marker to 01:04:00. What I have referenced above followed the welcome by President Macron of France, and official remarks by the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UN Women who announced a grand total of $40 Billion in new investments towards Gender Equality. $23 billion from the public sector, $4 billion from philanthropic organizations and $13 billion from the private sector. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada said “our government is investing $100 million to support paid and unpaid care work globally. This is a feminist generation and it needs feminist governments to stand with it.”

The President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker, announces a commitment of $420 million to 5 of the Action Coalitions – GBV, Economic Justice, Technology and Innovation, Bodily Autonomy and SRHR, Feminist Movements and Leadership. Ford Foundatin is also investing in the @BlackFemFund.

The Prime Minister from Finland, Marin Sanna announced a contribution of €150 million in support of Generation Equality in developing countries. Over the five years, Finalnd will work to advance gender equality in Technology and Innovation and SRHR. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany announced that “Germany is actively involved in the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights and will invest additionally €140 million, making a total of around €240 million in the International Action Coalition”

“The Government of Argentina decided to join and co-lead the Global Care Alliance, together with the Mexican Government, to promote comprehensive care systems and develop more inclusive and equal societies.”

The Malala Fund pledged to award $20m in funding to education activisits and to co-create a quality education agenda with girls. The Rockefeller Foundation is investing $30 million in women-owned organizations throughout the Global South and the Open Society Foundation is investing more than $100 million over the next five years. The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) announced a commitment of $500 million over five years to two Action Coalitions: Bodily Autonomy and SRHR and Economic Justice and Rights. PayPal committed more that $100 million to advance financial inclusion and economic empowernment of women and girls. The Gates Foundation committed $2.1 billion to help deliver change.

There appears to be no shortage of resources – my question will any of these resources or the impact of them bring any change to the girls and women who are the furthest behind, in fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda pledge to leave no one behind and of reaching the furthest behind first? I did not hear much if anything of the need for systemic change. Are these ‘feel good funds’ in the face of the terrible attrocities I was reminded of towards the end of the program when Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist, and Dr Mukwege, a Congolese renowned gynaecologist, surgeon, and founder and director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, came to the the platform. (See marker 3.41) Both shared the Noble Peace Prize in 2018 and each shared on the impacts of sexual violence on girls and women. Habiba Sarabi the woman Afghani negotiator for peace with the Taliban spoke of 10 month of negotiations – the Taliban are bent on re-establishing the old Afghanistan. In areas that the Taliban have captured they issue orders that women cannot leave their home for education or medical care. All the achievements gained for women’s rights are being lost. You can’t negotiate with extremism, she aaid and her final words “Today we are fighting terrorism in our country, but tomorrow it will knock at every door”.

Habiba Sarabi from Afghanistan.

The session began with this quote from Simone de Beauvoir and I will recall it to end this post – “Never forget that a political, economic or religious crisis would suffice to call women’s rights into question.” During the session there were references to the fact that democracy is threatened, people are afraid, there is a backlash against women’s human rights with the rise of Autocracy but this ceremony and event were filled with hope and determination to resist the backlash and fulfill the promise of Gender Equality.

Coalition for Adolescent Girls

“Adolescent girls must be front and center in the global movement for gender equality. As organizations committed to ensuring adolescent girls around the world are able to grow up healthy, educated, employable, and protected from all forms of violence, we write to urge you to publicly demonstrate your commitment to adolescent girls by placing them front and center in the Generation Equality Process, particularly in the five-year period following the Generation Equality Forum in Paris (June 30 – July 2, 2021).

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd is an organizational supporter of this letter addressed to the Action Coalition Leaders and in turn endorses the Girls’ Open Letter to World Leaders. They make a strong call for the allocation of much needed resources towards girls active participation and engagement at all levels. In line with the last sentence of the letter “we stand with adolescent girls and their need to be consulted and recognized as their own thought leaders with a critical stake in addressing inequality, inequity and exclusion on their journey to a brighter future.”

Mary Ward Young Women on Generation Equality have prepared a video of Asia Pacific girls’ asks

Girls Open Letter to World Leaders ahead of Generation Equality Forum – Paris

Girls have penned and published an open letter to World Leaders on the eve of the launch of the Generation Equality Fourm in Paris on Wednesday June 30. The GSIJP Office under the leadership of Alexis Schutz has facilitated girls from our organization in India and the Philippines to be part of the drafting group together with girls from Global G.L.O.W., Girl Scouts USA, Save the Children, IBVM Loretto, the The Grail, Mozambique and UN Women Girls’ Advisory Group. The letter has been translated into French and Spanish with an accompanying Tool Kit so that girls can use the letter to inform other girls and start advocacy work with their respective governments. The results of conversation circles that girls facilitated with other girls during CSW 65 is also provided and translated. The 9 page document focuses on each of the 6 Action Coalition with girls’ comments and recommendations. Our girls from the Philippines and India will be joined by girls from Madagascar and Kenya at the Forum.

The letter makes the connection between Generation Equality Forum, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and the Action Coalitions. Read the letter! Highlight for yourself what girls are saying! Tap into some amazing energy, vision, creativity and leadership for girls’ rights, gender equality and the future of our planet with girls.

Letter: English, French, Spanish

Toolkit: English, French, Spanish

Report from the Conversation Circles: English, French, Spanish

If you have not yet registered for the Forum you can still do so as registration has been extended until July 2nd. Click on the link. If you don’t register you will be unable to particiapte. See the program

If you are using soical media use these Hashtags ENGLISH: #GenerationEquality FRENCH: #GénérationÉgalité SPANISH: #GeneraciónIgualdad

ActForEqual ENGLISH: #ActForEqual FRENCH: #ÉgalitéOnAgit SPANISH: #ActuemosPorLaIgualdad

Girls want a better future. Girls are the future of this world. In these videos hear girls’ voices from India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines and Malaysia raising their voices. Will World Leaders heed what girls are saying in Paris?

Follow us on Twitter: @gsijp @winifreddoherty ; on Facebook: Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and Winifred Doherty

Agenda for Generation Equality Forum in Paris just published June 30 – July 2, 2021

Generation Equlaity Forum will have its launch of the Action Colations in Paris between June 30 and July 2, 2021 Registration is open until Sunday June 27 (midnight Paris time) Register Here For those who register the site will open on June 29th with opportunities to explore the virtual site. It is helpful if you have the agenda at hand to navigate your way to the venues for the different meetings.

The Agenda is in PDF format in English Spanish French. Together with the 6 Action Coalitions there is the Women, Peace and Security, and Humanitarian Action Compact. These will launch in 7 different session during July 1 and 2. The programme is structured around 7 themes. On June 30th and July 2nd there are 14 different events at the intersection of Gender Equality and other types of activism. Room Belleville hosts the Young Feminists on July 1 and 2 with 15 events scheduled. Theme four ‘Everyone Acts for Equal has 15 events over June 30, July 1 and 2. Theme 5 ‘Drivers for Change’ has 21 events over the 3 days. My pick from this schedule (i) Where is the Money for Girls? Resourcing Girls Organization (July 2, 10.00 – 10.45 CET); (ii) Activating Faith, Feminism and Freedom to Choose (July 1, 11.20 – 12.05 CET); (iii) Two events on Girls Education July 1, 10.00 – 11.00 and July 2, 4.00 – 500 (CET) and (iv) Ratification of ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harrassment in the World of Work July 2 5.30 – 6.30 (CET). Theme 6 take up a Feminist response to COVID 19 organizing eleven events over the three days and Theme 7 “Intra Regional conversations around Gender Equality” hosts ten events over the three days. The Opening and Closing events are ceremonial.

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Learn more about #ActforEqual CLICK HERE

The six Action Coaliton leads are comprised of representatives from Government, UN Entities, Civil Society, Youth Led Organizations and Private Companies and Philantrophy. SEE There are between 15 and 18 Leads in each coaliton. The Action Coalitons propose a road map for Gender Equality to deliver concrete results in six thematic areas. The plan is poised to acelerate concrete progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Mobilization for Committment Makers in each area had been issued and is now closed. It may reopen after the Fourm. The following 5 criteria are considered as being essential for any committment: (i) Potential for Impact; (ii) Funding; (iii) Level of Endorsement; (iv) Collective in nature and (v) SMART. Committments can either be Financial, Advocacy, Policy, or Programatic See more

A set of Powerpoints has been prepared to give a broad overview of each coalition, outlining four actions with associated targets