Celebrating a landmark
The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action charged governments and people around the world with achieving gender equality and women's empowerment. It remains a landmark commitment, and UN Women seized its 20th anniversary to step up action to make all parts of its far-reaching vision real in women's lives.
Early in 2015, the UN Commission on the Status of Women met to assess the status of the global implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and take stock of where women stand in the world today. An unprecedented 167 countries undertook national reviews, with findings summarized in an authoritative report issued by the UN Secretary-General. While governments set a high bar in Beijing, and there have been many advances, the report declared unequivocally that progress must accelerate.
Everywhere there were signs that more and more people recognize the gaps and are ready to speed up change. To mark Beijing+20 leading up to the Commission, UN Women ignited global public and political engagement with its campaign titled "Empowering Women, Empower Humanity-Picture It!" Through online and news media, it reached over 280 million people, inspiring an ever-growing circle of interest and action. A media compact with over 30 leading global outlets led to scaled-up, high-quality coverage of key gender equality concerns.
Forty events on the Beijing Platform for Action's 12 critical areas of concern, held around the world, convened leading experts, advocates and opinion shapers to map future directions on issues from education to jobs to political participation or media. These included, for example, a partnership with the Geena Davis Institute that produced the first-ever global study on the often limited, discriminatory portrayal of women in films.
The Commission brought government representatives and a record 4,500 NGO participants together for a vibrant discussion and debate. Over 650 events covered topics from increased financing for gender equality to the roles of men and boys. Stock exchanges in New York, Cairo, Warsaw, Stockholm, Istanbul, Lagos and Bombay rang their bells for gender equality, and thousands of people marched in the streets of New York City with the call "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality!"
At a star-studded event to celebrate the 20th anniversary in New York, leaders from the arts, philanthropy, politics, business and activism insisted that gender inequality have a 2030 expiry date and urged concrete actions to "Step it Up." Media coverage during the Commission, including on International Women's Day, totaled 5,000 news reports in 90 countries, while social media engagement reached nearly 1.2 billion unique users.
The Commission concluded with governments committing in a political declaration to six core strategies to accelerate progress towards gender equality. They agreed to significantly ramp up investment in empowering women and ending discrimination, and pledged to do more to implement laws, transform discriminatory stereotypes and enhance data to track progress. Starting in 2016, the Commission will devote a segment of its session to discussions among government ministers, a signal of strong political commitment.