Hundreds of women’s rights advocates from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus demand systemic change to realize women’s rights for an equal future
On 6 October, feminists and women’s rights advocates from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus are coming together in a virtual consultation to assess the progress achieved towards commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most visionary agenda for the human rights of women and girls. They will discuss challenges and critical priorities, and collectively advocate for systemic change with bold political will and decisive actions to accelerate the achievement of gender equality.
The meeting will mark the first in a series of consultations covering a range of themes related to women’s human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment and will feed into the Generation Equality Forum, a civil society–centred, global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France next year. In a concluding session, participants will present their recommendations to decision-makers and development partners.
The sub-regional consultations will bring together a diverse group of participants, including young feminists, survivors of violence against women, migrant women, LGBTQI people, rural women, women entrepreneurs, women with disabilities and men advocates, from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine.
The consultations will be held virtually, in interactive brainstorming sessions. The participants will also reflect on the economic and social fallout being caused by the COVID-19 crisis, which is hitting women hard and threatening the hard-won gains in gender equality.
"I have thought a lot about the power of solidarity and the change it can bring for us, women, girls and trans persons. The struggles we have might be so similar and so different in many aspects, but our aim as feminists, which is to be equal and live in a just society, is the same everywhere,” says Salome Chagelishvili, a feminist activist from Georgia and one of the moderators of the consultations. “That’s what international solidarity is about - to change the world and dismantle the oppressive systems that do not give us the possibility to live free. It is such a blessing when you can fight for a better world together with your community."
Increasing backlash against women’s rights and gender equality in the region and the COVID-19 pandemic pose significant challenges for the advancement of women’s rights and widen gender inequality with a disproportionate impact on women and girls from disadvantaged and vulnerable settings.
A recent UN Women report taking stock of gender equality in Europe and Central Asia shows some concerning data on progress with women’s rights across the region. Female homicide in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus is doubled compared to the EU regional average and it ranges up to 4,52 victims per 100 thousand women in the Russian Federation compared to 1,94 victims in case of Ukraine. Significant gaps remain in law and practice, where Azerbaijan, Belarus, and the Russian Federation, among other countries, still have no dedicated legislation on domestic violence or other forms of violence against women. Among 32 countries with available data, intimate partner violence among women and girls aged 15 to 49 was reported to be most common in Georgia with prevalence rates of 19.8 per cent. Despite quotas to accelerate women’s political participation, women hold only one in ten seats in national parliaments in Ukraine.
“The root of gender oppression (just as any oppression) is in the isolation and separation of those who are struggling. For me, international solidarity is a conscious, necessary effort to resist this separation,” says Oksana Potapova, women’s rights advocate from Ukraine, moderator of the discussions. “By coming together and sharing our challenges, we can see that our struggles are more similar than we think. While we must learn to recognize the particularities of each context, and the intersectionality of our oppression, we must also learn how to join forces and speak our truth, so as to be collectively empowered."
The sub-regional consultations will further lead to the broader regional thematic discussions focused on seven priority areas: gender-based violence; economic justice and rights; bodily autonomy and sexual health and reproductive rights; feminist action for climate justice; technology and innovation for gender equality; feminist movements and leadership; and women, peace and security.
The sub-regional consultations are organized by women’s rights advocates from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region with support from UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and Women Engage for a Common Future.
These consultations have been made possible with financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Deutsche Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Women 2030 and EuropeAid.