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From commitment to action: inclusion of women’s voices in Commonwealth priorities for gender equality

Posted on 30/09/2019
By Myn Garcia

Women from across the Commonwealth met in advance of the 12 Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting (12WAMM) on 16 and 17 September to discuss policy recommendations to accelerate national, regional, and global action to implement the Commonwealth commitments on gender equality in support of Beijing+25 Platform for Action. The Commonwealth Foundation offered a platform to 50 women’s rights and women-led organisations from across the Commonwealth. 

Delegates to the civil society roundtable in advance of 12WAMM called on member countries of the Commonwealth to support four priorities: ending violence against women and girls, women in leadership, women’s economic empowerment, and women’s land rights and climate change. These priorities reinforce the commitments made in Beijing 25 years ago, which despite progress remain unfinished business globally. The discussion also included an interrogation of the intersectionality of gender and how it is finding its way (or not) to the analysis of policy, particularly with regard to commitments made in Beijing on gender equality and women’s rights. 

Anne Pakoa (pictured right) Founder and CEO of the Human Rights Coalition of Vanuatu and Founder of Vanuatu Young Women for Change, addressed the Senior Officials Meeting in the days following the roundtable.

One of the things that the Foundation has been committed to in the last seven years is to promote ways by which civic voices are able to not only access spaces of policy making, but meaningfully engage with policy makers in the Commonwealth and beyond. The efforts have had uneven results. But on 18 September 2019 in Nairobi, the Foundation and its partners celebrated the inclusion of civic voices in the Senior Officials Meeting of 12WAMM, a milestone for the Commonwealth.  

Delegates of the roundtable called on member countries to take action as follows 

  • commit to ensuring that women and gender affairs ministries track compliance to international commitments and accelerate implementation at the national level 
  • invest in research to collect disaggregated data relating to the four pillars to ensure better planning, effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation 
  • address gender-based violence for the promotion of social and economic justice for women and girls, and document all women’s rights violations  
  • allocate significant funds: 15% of all sectoral budgets to women’s economic empowerment and 30% of national budgets to women machineries, in support of women, girls, and vulnerable groups in the margins 
  • allocate 50% of parliamentary seats for women leaders 
  • address the gender impact of climate change through meaningful international climate financing and prioritisation of mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage strategies in the most vulnerable countries in the global south, particularly in the small island developing states and the large ocean nations. 

Anne Pakoa, Founder and CEO of the Human Rights Coalition of Vanuatu and Founder of Vanuatu Young Women for Change, addressed the Senior Officials Meeting in the days following the roundtable. She concluded her delivery of the core messages from civil society with these words 

‘We hope that as you return to your respective countries, you will continue with the same spirit of constructively engaging with women’s rights and women-led organisations in support of the Commonwealth priorities for the advancement of the Beijing +25 Platform for Action.’

Indeed, accelerating the implementation of the Commonwealth’s priorities in support of the Beijing+25 Platform for Action requires national action. The key to accelerating these commitments lies at the national level. That’s one of the lessons the Millennium Development Goals gave us. Let’s take heed.  

Myn Garcia is a former Deputy Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation.  


Bringing civil society into the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting

Every three years, Commonwealth Ministers responsible for women’s affairs meet to discuss progress and challenges relating to gender equality in the Commonwealth. Civil society play an important role in monitoring and assessing governments' progress to achieve gender equality.