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Gender equality by 2030? Leaders to take stock of progress, challenges and solutions at Beijing+25 Review for UNECE region

From young gender equality advocates to high-ranking government officials, more than 700 key stakeholders will gather in Geneva on 29-30 October 2019 to review the progress made on the commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most visionary agenda for gender equality and women’s rights, adopted almost 25 years ago.

Today, not a single country in Europe, North America, the Caucasus or Central Asia has achieved full gender equality. Despite progress in some areas, gender equality is still not a lived reality. Across the UNECE region, women continue to work more and earn less, remain underrepresented in positions of leadership and are more likely to experience sexual violence than men.

The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting, jointly hosted by UNECE and UN Women, will review progress made and persisting challenges, showcasing practical policy approaches that can help remove the structural barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life. This will galvanize collaborative efforts on key issues, including equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, parental leave policies, ending all forms of gender-based violence and equal participation in decision-making. It will also provide a platform to discuss how Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to ensure gender equality by 2030 as a critical foundation for sustainable development spurs progress towards fulfilling the commitments of governments under the Beijing Declaration.

Prior to the meeting, a Regional Civil Society Forum will be held on 28 October to channel the inputs of gender equality advocates from across the UNECE region and prepare recommendations which will be presented in the opening of the Review Meeting.

Gender equality: Still far from the finish line

In the lead up to the Beijing+25 Review Meeting, 51 UNECE member States prepared national reports providing a detailed picture on national strategies and policies that have contributed to women’s empowerment and gender equality at the country level (see regional synthesis report).

The report on key trends on gender equality found that gaps between women and men in the UNECE region have narrowed, but progress is only at a snail’s pace. The gender gaps in employment rates, pay, occupation of managerial positions and parliamentary representation narrowed in most countries. In almost all countries, women now outnumber men among tertiary level graduates.

Despite these positive developments, important gaps remain. Women’s employment and wage rates remain much lower than men’s, especially when there are small children in the family. In education, gender-stereotyped subject choices persist, which translates into occupational segregation. Women do more domestic and care work than men. Women remain under-represented among managers and parliamentarians. Women suffer considerable levels of partner violence and sexual violence.

“Despite the widely acknowledged importance of the role of women in political, social and economic spheres, gender inequalities are pervasive and persist in reality,” stressed UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova. “We urgently need to take bold actions and reach out to women everywhere. This is why gender equality is one of my long-term priorities as a strong foundation for building a sustainable future for all.”

“Bejing+25 is a historic opportunity for generations to come together and reinvigorate the gender equality agenda,” stated UN Women Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér. “If we are serious about making the commitments to women and girls a reality, seizing this opportunity is a must, not an option.”

Beijing+25: Galvanizing action and progress on gender equality

Chaired by Ms. Altinay Omurbekova, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, and Ms. Pascale Baeriswyl, State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, the two-day Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting, entitled “From commitments in Beijing to transformative results by 2030 – Gender equality in the ECE region”, will include eight thematic sessions focussing on areas of specific concern for the UNECE region. 

At the margins of the Review Meeting, ten side events will focus on key policy issues, including ageing and its implications for gender equality and effective gender mainstreaming methods.

From 1995 to today: a long road to gender equality

At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995 the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted by 189 governments committed to remove the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life, with a specific focus on strategic, bold actions in 12 critical areas of concern. Since 1995, every five years global review meetings take place, preceded by regional meetings organized by the five Regional Commissions. The outcomes of the Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting will feed into the 2020 Global Beijing+25 Review at the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The programme of the Meeting and background documents, together with details of side events and the Civil Society Forum, can be accessed at http://www.unece.org/beijing25.html.

Facts and figures on gender equality in the UNECE region

Gender Pay Gap:

Across Europe, North America, the Caucasus and Central Asia, the gender pay gap in hourly wage rates varies from 4% in Romania to 34 % in Armenia.

Education:

Women outnumber men in higher education, but gender stereotyped subject choices persist.

In 39 out of the 47 UNECE countries with data, more than 55 per cent of higher education graduates are women. Women remain a minority among Information and Communications Technology (ICT) students, with percentages ranging from 11% in Belgium to 33% in Greece.

Political participation:

Across Europe, North America, the Caucasus and Central Asia, 16 countries have more than 30% women in their parliaments. Sweden, Finland and Norway each have more than 40% women among members of parliaments. Women are in a minority in local governments across the region, with only four countries reaching the threshold of 40 per cent, considered as “gender parity”.

Employment:

In the 29 countries with data, women’s employment rates are on average eight percentage points lower when there are 3 to 5 year-olds in the household, than when there are not.

In countries of Europe, North America, the Caucasus and Central Asia, approximately one-third of all managerial positions were held by women in 2017, with the proportion ranging from 15.0 per cent (in Turkey) to 47.6 per cent (in Belarus).

Violence:

In Europe, North America, the Caucasus and Central Asia a large proportion of homicides of women still occur at the hands of current or former partners or relatives.

In 2017, over 70 per cent of homicides of women were perpetrated by a relative in Albania, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia.

Source: “Key trends on gender equality across the ECE region”, ECE/AC.28/2019/6