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2020 is the year that can change the world

The start of a new decade is always exciting, and this one has been no exception, bringing with it a new sense of optimism and renewed energy in the fight for gender equality. What if 2020 was truly the year that changed the world?  

2020 is certainly a very special year with many reasons to celebrate, especially as milestones and anniversaries approach. First of all, this year is the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform For Action, the most progressive international agreement for advancing women and girls’ rights. The world is set to reinforce its commitment to gender equality during the upcoming Generation Equality Forum.  

This is also the year we celebrate the United Nations’ 75th anniversary, an important milestone at a time when multilateralism and peacebuilding requires tremendous momentum and support. We also can’t forget the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, an agenda that affirms women’s rights to be included in and central to all peacebuilding efforts. We need to remind ourselves, and commit to, the importance of women being central to peace building around the world now more than ever.  

Last but not least, 2020 also marks the five year milestone of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda that carries its own promise for gender equality, especially through SDG 5. 

But 2020 is important for more than just the anniversaries and symbolic celebrations that it will bring. There are a few other reasons that make 2020 an exciting year. 

First of all, 2020 is the year where younger generations take control of the agenda. Through organized activism and collective agenda-setting, they are offering us the much needed generational shift on issues like gender equality, economic justice and climate justice. Youth leadership has gone from being a side note to a driving force in our global movement for gender equality. I’ve seen the power of youth collectives to occupy space and insist that they be part of decision-making processes. I’ve seen it at a national level in Benin, where a youth advocate like Chanceline Mevowanou is carrying the voices of her generation from the grassroots all the way to the halls of power while also controlling the narrative and ensuring the authenticity of her messages. I’ve also seen it in the lead-up to the Generation Equality Forum, where groups like Young Feminist Europe are stepping it up to be fully represented – and heard – in key decision-making around agenda setting. Greta Thunberg can get close to 6 million people in 185 countries to take to the street around a common message, and youth-led activism is on the rise all around the globe. Overall, ambitious yet concrete outcomes seem more realistic now, because they are carried by youth who are organized, strategic, and relentless. And that power can trigger large-scale changes like the we’ve never seen before.  

Secondly, 2020 can set a new norm for governments when it comes to investing in policies and programs to reach gender equality. This is the first time –ever!– that we live in a world where four countries have officially adopted feminist foreign policies (Sweden, Canada, France, and Mexico). And while some of these fluctuate between rhetorical wins and concrete action, there is a new norm (and normalcy) that has been set. These governments have the incredible power to influence and convince others to follow their lead. This could trigger big commitments during the Generation Equality Forum, co-hosted by France and Mexico, and ensure that the six Action Coalitions launched during the forum generate bold and transformative investments. Think about it for a second: for so long we have fought to get feminism into the political sphere, and now, it literally is. Feminism is no longer (in certain contexts at least) only seen as an ideology but as an actual political and analytical tool that can help build both national and international policies and agendas.  For the first time, 2020 is the year when we get to see this in action. Imagine what can come out of this if the snowball effect comes into play! 

Finally, beyond anniversaires and symbolic milestones, 2020 is the year that the global women’s rights movement reclaims spaces and processes and confirms its role as a unifying intersectional force that won’t fall short of disrupting the status quo and pushing the feminist agenda forward. In 1995, the movement was pushed forward in a way that was absolutely incredible. In 2020, equipped with lessons from the past 25 years, we have an opportunity to go through that same process, and use the Generation Equality Forum as a stepping stone into the next phase of our existence. One focused on youth leadership, intergenerational dialogue, and intersectional identities. If we can leverage these milestones in the same way our sisters did in 1995, then 2020 is going to be the start of a whole new chapter in our global and collective fight.  

2020 can truly be the year the world can change.

Emily Bove
Executive Director