Over the last month the international advocacy community has come together at the NGO Commission on the Status of Women and the launch event for Generation Equality Forum to discuss the issues facing women today and the extraordinary efforts grassroots organizations are implementing to affect change. These conversations and forums all drove to a central point - justice is an essential service.
CSW65 started the month off with many empowering conversations and critical takeaways. It was from Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that these thoughts were succinctly represented, “The impacts of crises are never gender-neutral and COVID-19 has starkly exposed underlying inequalities and reminded us that rights on paper are not necessarily rights in practice.” The panelists from the event Feminist Action for Cliimate Justice: A Vision and Strategies for realizing Rights and Resilience provided statistics that put this sharply into view: 1 in 10 environmental defenders killed are women. But there were also uplifting moments where the hope of the future to build back better was clear: COVID has created an opportunity we must seize to create equal and just societies.
The Generation Equality Forum started from a place of action, launching an action coalition that combines grassroots organizations, civil society, and private partnerships to coalesce around six key areas (You can read more about them here). Many of the speakers and panels spoke on a similar sentiment, including Hajer Sharief, Human Rights advocate & co-founder of “Together We Build” who noted that, “It is our right as women to be apart of the decision making process, it is not a gift or an extra but a fundamental right” and identified that structural mechanisms are needed to ensure this. Similar to the key takeaways from the CSW, many panelists identified the need for transformative justice that goes beyond what laws are on the books but empowering local actors and organizations to uphold and help enforce them. While there was a heavy emphasis on diagnosis the ending session looked toward the future.
Conversations centered on gender and justice carried a common theme of diagnosis, yet we know there is much to be done around implementation. While there may be laws on the books in many countries that protect women and girls, the implementation of these laws does not always follow suit, it is through the work of grassroots legal empowerment and advocacy organizations that ensure these laws are being upheld in just and equitable ways. Moving forward it is critical to support these community based efforts, specifically with core flexible and equitable funding to ensure that grassroots justice organizations can overcome the challenges of delivering services not just in the pandemic but also to remote and last mile constituents. We have learned over the past month that it is often these organizations that are delivering services that fill in the gaps of official institutions and providing equitable justice support to communities in hard to reach and remote areas.
As this global community begins to turn toward the second event of the GEF in Paris later in the year, many organizations are building work plans that have specific action items attached to them to ensure real tangible results are taken while there is strong momentum around these events and the reconstruction efforts of COVID. The closing session for Day Three of the GEF in Mexico featured a session on Mobilizing Commitments (You can watch that here). States along with other partners are asked to come to Paris with commitments to pledge and it therefore follows that many organizations have already begun the process of lobbying for action to be taken around their action plans. Similarly, here at the Legal Empowerment Network, we hope to use this moment to encourage investment in the COVID-19 Fund that we launched earlier this year and has already distributed funds to 30 organizations. As we heard from panelists at both the CSW and the GEF, funding can make all the difference when it comes to providing meaningful support to the hardest to reach communities.
The pandemic created a need for innovative solutions that can lead to integrative learnings that should be carried forward. This past month provided an opportunity for the global community to come together and share these learnings, but the months that follow will be critical in ensuring the lessons learned are integrated and acted upon. Grassroots community based organizations learnings are directly translatable to the improvement of government institutions delivery of essential services and the protection of women and girls against gender based violence. Liv Toørres of Pathfinders captures this moment, “before the pandemic the justice gap was enormous & this has only been exacerbated by Covid. We know no country will be able to achieve just societies without closing the gender gap. We know that countries need women to achieve their full economic and social potential.”
Did you attend any events? Are you planning on engaging at the Generation Equlity Forum? We would love to hear more about what members are planning and if there are ways we can support your efforts!