Saturday , July 13 2024
Home / In The Magazine / Commonwealth in new roadmap to fast-track gender equality

Commonwealth in new roadmap to fast-track gender equality

Delegates at the Commonwealth meeting on gender equality in The Bahamas. COURTESY PHOTO.

Campaign will target  men addressing violence against women

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | The Commonwealth, the organization that brings together independent states most of which are former British colonies and protectorates, has announced a new roadmap to scale up efforts to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls with particular focus on climate action.

The roadmap followed a three-day meeting of 80 ministers and senior officials in charge of women’s affairs within the Commonwealth at their triennial summit. Held in the Bahamas starting Aug.21, the summit opened with a call for stronger action on gender equality priorities in the face of intensifying global environmental and economic challenges.

The meeting also offered a critical platform to take stock of the current status of gender equality and work together on strategies to accelerate progress on shared priorities. It also offered an opportunity for input from a range of stakeholders, including domestic violence survivors, civil society representatives and women with disabilities.

“It’s time to demolish the walls of the old boys’ club,” said Philip Davis, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas in his keynote address. “Only when opportunities are opened up more widely, will we truly be making the most of the talent and ingenuity of all of humanity.”

He described the Commonwealth women’s affairs ministers meeting as “an ideal platform,” adding that: “The discussions and resolutions that emerge will pave the path for the agenda for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa.”

“Your work can be the catalyst for much-needed momentum toward a better, more just world for everyone.” Speaking on Aug.21, Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General – the first woman to hold the post – told officials that she has mainstreamed gender across all areas of her organization’s work to help member countries achieve their development goals more equitably.

She added: “Our world faces serious challenges: the long shadow of COVID-19; crippling debt, rising inflation and high-interest rates … and the increasingly harsh impacts of climate change. In each of them, the impact on women and girls is disproportionate. But together, we are more than equal to the challenges we face.”

“This is our time. Let us resolve that the chapter we will write together here in The Bahamas will lead us to a safer, more sustainable, more equal and more prosperous future for all.”

“If, in The Bahamas, we, the Commonwealth, came together and were able to free Nelson Mandela. Isn’t it time now we free the women of the world? As Nelson Mandela once said: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ So, let’s do it.”
Scotland stressed that accelerated action on gender equality is at the heart of the success of the Commonwealth in the face of the ongoing challenges and pledged her continued support to the ministers.

Obediah Wilchcombe, Bahamas’ Minister of Social Services and Urban Development reiterated the Secretary General’s sentiment noting that people within the Commonwealth expect – and will want from the minister’s exceptional leadership.

“Leadership that can make change happen. We have done it here in The Bahamas before. It was 1985 when the Commonwealth met in The Bahamas and made great strides and a big step toward the release of Nelson Mandela.”

“And six years later, he walked a free man, free of the chains and the shackles. It is now our time to unchain and remove the shackles from the women. We have the opportunity [and] the strengths of the Commonwealth to collectively make this change happen.”

Pledges in the new roadmap

As part of the new roadmap, the women’s affairs ministers pledged to enhance efforts to address inequality in several Commonwealth priority areas over the coming years. Specific provisions include an enhanced role of women in climate finance, increased support for women with disabilities, more economic opportunities for women, better representation in decision-making and greater protections from gender-based violence.

Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, said the roadmap was “incredibly important” because millions of women and girls “are disproportionately impacted by injustice, climate change, violence and discrimination.”

“The outcomes of the meeting send a clear message that the Commonwealth is determined to lead by example towards ensuring women and girls are not left behind in our efforts to achieve sustainable development and climate justice.

“What we achieved here will enable us all to deliver today and it will help to shape a better tomorrow for the benefit of the 2.5 billion people living in our Commonwealth.”

In order to support the roadmap’s implementation, the ministers endorsed a framework for reporting on Commonwealth priorities for gender equality.

The Commonwealth Secretariat will use this framework to regularly assess progress based on set indicators and coordinate necessary measures through a ministerial action group, aimed at tackling challenges of disrupting the positive momentum.

Acknowledging that climate change disproportionately affects women and girls, ministers shared good practices that supported women and girls in overcoming the impacts in their respective countries.

Wilchcombe, Bahamas’ minister of social services and urban development expressed his appreciation for the substantive outcomes. “We have a roadmap coming out of this meeting which we [The Bahamas] and other countries will follow. Because it would not make too much sense three years from now to return saying the same old thing. What we want to do is to make a real difference. We are pleased that this meeting sets us up on a higher plane and at a faster pace to follow this roadmap.”

In recognition of the significance of engaging men and boys in preventing and combating gender-based violence, the ministers welcomed the launch of the Commonwealth Secretary General’s campaign which will run under the theme: “For the Women in my Life’ campaign.”

The campaign will be rolled out across the Commonwealth taking a culturally sensitive approach towards involving men and boys in addressing violence against women and girls as active allies.

In their joint statement, the ministers also highlighted the need for collecting and analyzing sex-disaggregated data to develop evidence-based solutions and target them more accurately.

The Commonwealth’s roadmap comes against the backdrop of a recent United Nations report that has shown that achieving full gender equality, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could take close to 300 years if the current rate of progress continues.

Gender disparities

The study published by the UN Women and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DECA) last year revealed how gender disparities are worsening in the face of “cascading” global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, violent conflict, and climate change coupled with the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health rights.

“As a result, countries will not meet SDG 5 by the 2030 deadline. This is a tipping point for women’s rights and gender equality as we approach the halfway mark to 2030,” said Sima Bahous, the executive director at UN Women.

“It’s critical that we rally now the need to invest in women and girls to reclaim and accelerate progress. The data show undeniable regressions in their lives, made worse by the global crises in incomes, safety, education and health. The longer we take to reverse this trend, the more it will cost us all.”

The Gender Snapshot 2022 report showcases how cooperation, partnerships and investments are essential to put the world back on track. “Without swift action, legal systems that do not ban violence against women or protect their rights in marriage and family, may continue to exist for generations to come,” notes the report. Going forward, the roadmap will be considered by leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa.

About the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal sovereign states with a combined population is 2.5 billion, of which more than 60% are aged 29 or under. It spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-three of our members are small states, many of which are island nations.

The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Although the organization comprises mainly former British colonies and protectorates, it has recently brought into its fold other countries including; Rwanda, Togo and Gabon. Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *