On the road to reaching gender equality, the Generation Equality Forum is an important milestone. And yes, we’ve had many international conferences in the past few years in which gender equality has been a priority and in which we have watched the diplomatic ballet of commitments and promises. But for several reasons, this one feels different.
First of all, the Forum reflects the fact that we need more than just civil society and governments to deliver for gender equality. For the first time, we’re seeing private sector groups and businesses commit to fund and implement actions identified by multi stakeholders that include feminist activists. The Forum’s six Action Coalitions include leaders from across sectors (government, private sector, civil society), and their structure offers what could be the most successful model to deliver real and fast change.
Second, the Forum will deliver concrete commitments across six priority areas, and hold commitment makers accountable. Hopefully, this means the end of big announcements that fall short of reaching their goals once the spotlight has gone. The commitment-makers that will be part of the Forum will have to report on their progress and document the change they have managed to fuel. Beyond just getting the work done, we’ll be able to see what has worked and what hasn’t, and collectively learn about what to do better, and faster.
But most importantly, this one is different because of the sheer amount of work feminist activists and leaders have put into making it a success. Beyond the uniqueness of this important event, it’s important to highlight the incredible work that feminist groups and leaders around the world, and in particuar on the African continent, have put into shaping the Forum, contributing to its design and content, and leading the charge to secure strong commitments and investments for women and girls.
Over the past twelve months, Batonga has had a front seat on the process, and together with partners and the incredible young women and adolescent girls we serve, has strongly contributed to the outcomes we are about to witness in Paris.
Batonga’s “Nos Voix Comptent” (NVC) initiative enabled francophone leaders to be a part of a process by ensuring they had access to information, were able to share their priorities and needs, and actively participated in the advocacy and mobilization process around commitments. NVC held four webinars for more than 300 leaders in 18 countries, consulted 2,490 women and young women online and in person to collect their perspectives and priorities, and handed over to the Forum organizers some strong recommendations on what African francophone women needed and wanted. We also worked with the French government to ensure digital inclusion for all throughout the process. On the other side of this huge effort we led in partnership with the Global Fund for Women and the Francophone Women’s Fund, we know that francophone women have been heard and have had a strong role in the process. With our Conversations For Africa project, Batonga created new spaces for gender equality topics to be discussed in the lead up to the Forum, with and by African leaders who can reach youth and audiences traditionally left out of these important conversations. We’ve raised awareness for thousands of folks, leveraging social media to amplify messages that can truly transform people’s opinions.
In a few days, presidents, artists and leaders will be taking the stage in Paris to announce big commitments, and together we’ll celebrate our collective achievements. But let there be no doubt that it is the women leaders and gender equality activists on the ground who have made this happen, and who have carried this promise of transformation for all women and girls in the world. In a few days, we’ll be celebrating them.