NEW YORK, June 28 (IPS) – As the global gathering for gender equality, the Generation Equality Forum, kicks off in Paris on June 30, 2020, IPS conducted an exclusive interview with Katja Iversen.
Iversen is a leading global influencer on leadership, sustainability and gender equality, executive advisor to Goal 17 partners, UNILEVER, women political leaders and others. She was also part of President Macron’s G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council in 2019.
The Generation Equality Forum, convened by UN Women and co-chaired by the Presidents of France and Mexico, comes as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse global progress on gender equality.
The forum is expected to affirm “investments, programs and policies in favor of gender equality and begin a 5-year course of action, based on a global acceleration plan for gender equality to be launched at the time. of the forum, “according to a press release.
Iversen spoke at length about the need for women to be included in decision-making, the role of the private sector and how the world is on a tipping point.
“If we want to see positive development for both people and the planet, we – in short – need more women in power and more power for women, in the economy and in politics,” said Iversen. “The next Generation Equality Forum, organized by UN Women in collaboration with the governments of France and Mexico, comes at a pivotal moment and offers an excellent opportunity to catalyze progress. I want to see the whole world react to the call of the bugle coming out of Paris this week ”.
She stressed that the time had come to act because “we are seeing an inequality gap which is destabilizing and widening in the world. We are also seeing growing conservatism and a decline in women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). And very concretely, we are seeing a surge in gender-based violence, heightened misogyny, women doing even more unpaid care work, as well as alarming rates of girls dropping out of school and women dropping out of the market. work “.
She spoke about the need to involve the private sector in creating a more equal world.
“The private sector is a major employer of women, women are consumers, and we will not see gender equality, nor a sustainable world in general, if the private sector does not commit to change. Fortunately, more and more companies are stepping up and investing in sustainability and gender equality, ”she told IPS.
She and Goal 17 Partners, a network of leaders and entrepreneurs integrating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into business practices, are working with new companies that are committed to the SDGs, including SDG 5 on l gender equality and the empowerment of women. Together, including the United Nations Foundation, United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights (BSR), UN Women, they have guided commitments to generational equality.
“There is a huge need AND potential, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, whether in terms of female leadership, equal pay, parental leave, financial inclusion, diverse, inclusive workplaces. and without harassment, or health and education. Investing in different aspects of gender equality is both the right thing and the economically smart thing to do, research shows ”.
On research, Katja Iversen told IPS about the need for better and more data and research: “Decision makers, whether in governments, funding institutions or the private sector, need to invest and get more data. disaggregated. If we don’t know in detail how many or where girls and women live and die, work and want to go to school, give birth or care for the sick, whether rich or poor, we will not get the political right , programs or investments that can lead to the necessary solutions.
She pointed out that according to UN Women, less than 25 percent of national COVID decision-making bodies have women included.
“It is too easy to cut the resources of people who are not at the decision-making tables. We urgently need to bring many women into leadership, including the COVID response and recovery efforts. All the evidence shows that when more women are included in decision making, there is a more holistic approach and societies and people fare better. “
In this regard, she highlighted some transformational political commitments that will be presented to the Generation Equality Forum, in particular from the vast network of women political leaders, which includes thousands and thousands of women ministers, mayors, parliamentarians, heads of state. and private sector leaders.
“I believe we will see some real game changers,” she said.
Iversen expressed concern about the urgent need for additional funding, especially for women’s organizations on the front lines. It is linked to recent and severe cuts in gender equality and sexual and reproductive health that could seriously affect women and their health, especially in vulnerable communities.
“In addition to what happened during the days of former US President Donald Trump, the cuts we are now seeing in several countries, including the UK, will have devastating effects on girls, women and women. gender equality, including for the most marginalized in emergency and humanitarian situations. She told IPS. “The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), for example, estimates that with the £ 130 million (US $ 180 million) the UK wants to take out of the procurement partnership, UNFPA could have helped prevent about 250,000 maternal and infant deaths, 14.6 million unintentional deaths. pregnancies and 4.3 million unsafe abortions.
IPS: UNFPA and partners estimate that significant disruption to health services by COVID 17 could cause 47 million women in low- and middle-income countries to go without contraceptives. How to deal with this loss of access to the most basic SRH services, especially now that the second wave of Covid-19 is once again disrupting health services in many parts of the world?
KI: The displacement of maternal and reproductive health service staff and funds due to the COVID response is devastating and will have ramifications for years, if not decades. We know from Ebola that maternal mortality has increased, access to family planning has declined, and girls and women have paid the price in both lives and livelihoods. Unfortunately, the evidence is mostly anecdotal as women’s health is not documented and measured in the same way as other health services, just as there is, in general, a huge lack of sex-disaggregated data, including on the key indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). and in infections and deaths from COVID. This time – in the context of the COVID pandemic – gaps in SRHR services, resource shifts and service cuts need to be documented – in data and stories.
IPS: In many countries, the removal of the stamp tax (or rule tax) has been at the forefront of equal access to SRHR. What other key issues do you think we need to focus on to ensure equity of access to SRHR and greater bodily autonomy? KI: I am delighted to see SRHR and bodily autonomy being a priority of Generation Equality and to see countries like Denmark, France, Burkina Faso and UNFPA, etc., take the lead in this.
A woman’s right to decide about her own life and her body is a basic human right. The bodily autonomy of girls and women – in all their rich diversity – is political, social, economic and health. It is about having the power and agency to make choices about our own body, our fertility and our future, to live a life free from violence and coercion in the private and public sphere, to decide with whom to relate. sex and how to love. It is about the right to decide whether to have children – or not – to have a health system that supports this with the full range of SRHR services readily available, affordable and accessible. Bodily autonomy is linked to norms, structure, systems – and if we want equity and health for all, we have to tackle all of these. I’m happy to see this included in Generation Equality’s progressive roadmap, with strong suggestions on how to tackle gender-based violence, climate change, promoting economic justice and feminist movements and leadership, etc.
The world is at a crossroads and at a turning point. With enough people and institutions responding to the Generation Equality Forum’s Clarion Appeal in Paris, I think we can tip it in the right direction.
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