Generation Equality Forum and the Road to Justice
Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, president and CEO, PAI
There is no journey more important than that of achieving gender equality and ensuring women’s rights. There is no time more important to do so than now.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the disproportionate impact and burden that crises have on women and girls. It also illuminates the urgent work required to turn the tide on ensuring the rights, safety, dignity and prosperity of women in Mexico and around the world.
The government of Mexico, in collaboration with UN Women, the Government of France, civil society organizations and youth advocates, is hosting the Generation Equality Forum. This landmark event kicks off its journey in Mexico City from March 29-31, 2021 and culminates in Paris, France in June 2021. The Forum will catalyze urgent action for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights and secure multisectoral commitments, investments and sustained actions to escalate progress.
On the heels of the 65th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which culminated this week, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and as Mexico demonstrates leadership as the first Latin American country to adopt a feminist foreign policy, the Generation Equality Forum will bring forward bold, undeterred and concrete actions to ensure that the aspirations, voice and worth of women are no longer denied. While Mexico has a leading role in convening this global conversation, Mexico and countries around the world will be held to account, because achieving gender equality requires recognizing where we are fundamentally falling short.
Globally, one in three women are victims of physical or sexual violence, and younger women are at greater risk. Emergencies such as COVID-19 only exacerbate harm. Nearly 12 million women in poorer countries lost access to contraceptives during the pandemic. This resulted in 1.4 million unplanned pregnancies, as access to and funding toward comprehensive and essential sexual and reproductive health services were curtailed. In addition, the pandemic will push 47 million women and girls into extreme poverty. And there are millions of women who continue to be victims of economic and social discrimination, resulting in reduced access to opportunities and services that are vital to equity and justice.
While the global landscape is concerning, our own national realities are also stark.
In Mexico, the crisis of femicides are the most devastating demonstration of violence and discrimination against women, and they are on the rise. After Brazil, Mexico is the second country in Latin America with the highest number of gender-based crimes against women, with every seven out of 10 women affected by violence in public and private spaces. The economic well-being of women in Mexico is also challenged as women continue to be at a disadvantage in achieving income equality and the rate of extreme poverty increases. Moreover, far too many women, especially those living in vulnerable conditions, lack access to fundamental components of women’s equality and progress: sexual and reproductive health and rights. In Mexico, as in other countries around the world, COVID-19 has complicated access to health services, particularly access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and young people. An increase in gender-based violence and reduced access to sexual and reproductive health services, when large gaps and challenges already existed, creates troubling vulnerabilities for women, including the inability for all women to realize their full rights and aspirations.
In our 56-year history of working with more than 80 civil society partners in Mexico and 25 other countries around the world, PAI has championed the universal right to sexual and reproductive health for all. We have seen time and time again that when something as fundamental as sexual and reproductive rights are discarded and not protected, violence and discrimination against women in communities are high. Ensuring women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is critical not only to closing the equity gap in health and achievement, but also to achieving gender equality.
Mexico has a tremendous opportunity to set an example and act upon a bold agenda for a generation of women who are speaking up for reproductive equity and justice, safety and protection and the right to achieve and prosper. With its powerful civil society movements, strength of female leadership and representation and the undeniable, vibrant voice of our mothers, sisters, daughters and fellow advocates, Mexico can achieve what is desired. The question is, can the naysayers get out of our way?
The Generation Equality Forum is more than just a call for this moment. It is a movement of optimism, unity, strength and long-term responsibility. It’s a reminder that when women come together, raise their voices and stay united, progress is certain. After all, this generation will not be satisfied or go quietly when it is on the right side of humanity.