On 14 March, civil society activists from around the world gathered virtually for the annual NGO Consultation Day: two energizing hours of education, conversation and storytelling to kick off the civil society participation in the 65th Commission on the Status of Women (NGO CSW). NGO CSW 65 Forum hosts parallel sessions to the official Commission on the Status of Women taking place at UN Headquarters, providing civil society with the opportunity to engage in the process.
This years’ Consultation Day event showcased the energy, joy, and commitment of civil society activists and youth leaders that will be carried forward to the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City from 29-31 March (register to participate here) and in Paris from 30 June – 2 July. The Generation Equality Forum marks the first time that an international conference on women’s rights of this magnitude has included young feminist and civil society organizations at the highest level of decision making. Youth activist from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Chamathya Fernando, underscored how groundbreaking it has been to see youth not only consulted, but engaged and co-leading throughout the Forum processes. Numerous other youth advocates also took the opportunity of Consultation Day to rally in support of the Forum. Their powerful speeches called on young women and girls around the world to stand together as a community to further propel the work of the Forum and to seize this co-creation opportunity by bringing their aspirations and demands to the table.
“Here we stand in front of you as Generation Equality, refusing to continue the mistakes and misogyny embedded into our communities. Girls and young women are an unstoppable force for change. We demand change and we demand it now.” – Hiya Shah, Girls Learn International
Reflecting on the Generation Equality journey, UN Women Executive Coordinator of the Generation Equality Forum, Lopa Banerjee, acknowledged the huge losses we have seen throughout the past year, of human lives, jobs and livelihoods, increased poverty and uncertainty all triggered by the pandemic. Her message was, however, one of fierce hope and anticipation. “The world today recognizes the immense power of interconnected collaboration”, she said, highlighting that the Generation Equality Forum is building on this momentum. “Through collaboration, solidarity, intersectional mobilization and the world coming together, we will make the change that we need to see.” Read the full speech here.
Speaking in conversation with the chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, H.E. Mr. Mher Margaryan, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasized how the upcoming Generation Equality Forum will support intergovernmental mechanisms and accelerate progress by expanding the space for the achievement of gender equality, in which everybody has a role to play. Ambassador Delphine O, Secretary-General of the Generation Equality Forum in France, similarly expressed her hope that the Forum will mobilize actors from all horizons to work together in order to deliver concrete results and significantly improve the living conditions of women and girls in every corner of the world. “Our efforts should not relent at this moment” said the Executive Director of Women for Change, Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh, re-iterating the importance of making sure that all of this momentum around the Generation Equality Forum translates into direct actions and practical solutions on the ground.
The event was a moment for inspiring conversation, the recognition of powerful youth voices, and for joy and solidarity. Dr Nadine Gasman, President of the National Institute of Women in Mexico, emphasized that this energy and effort of NGO CSW will be carried through to the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City, which will celebrate the power of women’s rights activists, feminist solidarity and youth leadership to achieve transformative change, and to the culmination of the Forum in Paris where ambitious investments and policies for gender equality will be launched. “We are waiting for you in Mexico”, she told participants, and “we will have a space for deep and important commitments. This is not a century of planning, it is a century of actions, and that is what we want to make happen in Mexico”.
Watch the full Consultation Day event below