Delhi : “Decelerating the adverse impact of COVID-19 on women and children and transforming the role of girls and women in the post-pandemic era are critical for gender equality,” said the gender-equality leaders, who participated in the Global Summit for Gender Related UNESCO Chairs and Networks (W36), virtually from India.
The W36 Global Summit reached over 46 countries with hundreds of participants and institutions around the world, including 17 UNESCO Chairs in Gender Equality and a total of 54 presentations by various speakers, a celebrity guest of honor, Ms. Ava DuVernay and distinguished speakers for UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and New Delhi.
The Summit discussed the challenges currently faced by women and girls worldwide because of the COVID-19 pandemic and how to address them. W36 was organized by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s Center for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality (CWEGE), a research-focused academic center for promoting gender equality, in partnership with the university’s AMMACHI Labs, an academic and research center that brings an interdisciplinary approach to addressing societal challenges.
In her opening remarks via a recorded message, Ms. Ava DuVernay, Guest of Honor and Co-Chair, Prada Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, said, “Women supporting women is a beautiful and brave thing. I count myself lucky to be the recipient of such support. I greatly value paying it forward in the work that I do each and every day. I salute you from all from afar and thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this global summit hosted by Amrita University. I am so inspired by the fantastic work that Amma does day in and day out to further ensure that no woman or girl is left behind.”
The two-day virtual event also featured thematic sessions and group sessions on Science & Technology; Education & Skill Development; Society, Culture & Legal Rights; Health & Nutrition, Safety & Security, Environment & Sustainability; Finance & Economics, and Communication & Leadership.
The leaders of UNESCO agreed that to ensure no woman or girl is left behind, they must make best and sincere efforts to promote gender equality as a cross-cutting agenda in the Sustainable Development Goals all over the world. A joint declaration was presented, emphasizing the importance for UNESCO Chairs and Networks to work together and collaborate with academics, governments, NGOs, and institutions in a variety of sub-areas related to gender equality.
In her keynote address Ms. Jamila Seftaoui, Director, Division for Gender Equality, Cabinet of the Director-General, UNESCO, Paris, reiterated, “my vision for the next biennium builds on past progress and takes into consideration the huge still untapped potential of UNESCO to change people’s lives, in particular women’s and girls’ lives for good, for the better.”
Addressing the summit Dr. Bhavani Rao, chairholder of the UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (India), said: “We have seen how COVID-19 has exacerbated the vulnerabilities in the system and undermined the progress we have made in women empowerment in the recent decades. The focus of the Chairs must be on designing tools and methods for effective interventional strategies towards empowerment of women and strengthening gender equality with community’s active and inclusive participation.” Dr. Rao also added that the mission of UNESCO Chairs is built on three pillars of education, implementation, and research. A global summit offers a powerful platform to support the transformation process and reach out to all women worldwide. The diverse research done by UNESCO Chairs and Networks dedicated to women’s empowerment offers powerful tools in advancing women’s rights and wellbeing
Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, UNESCO Chair on Experiential Learning for Sustainable Innovation & Development, said, “it is indeed a happy moment to be a part of this Global Summit for Gender-Related Chairs and Networks. I am very much looking forward to seeing all the women experts in this area. Being a woman myself, I hope that this summit paves the way to shaping a world that holds a bright future for women all across the world.” She then shared the key features of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, headed by Chancellor Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma), and mentioned that Amma has dedicated her life to promoting women empowerment and gender equality. With her guidance, the CWEGE under UNESCO Chair has made significant collaborations with international and grassroots partners around the world.
Talking about the Priority Action Roadmap for Women’s Economic Empowerment (PARWEE) in the wake of COVID-19, Ms. Sandrine Bonin (Yamuna), SMART SHG Project Lead, Center for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, said: “PARWEE is an action-oriented research project that promotes Indian women entrepreneurs. The voices of these women need to be heard so that hurdles faced in this unprecedented economic crisis can be overcome. The need is to provide solutions to revive their businesses and support the people they employ. It is important that we build capacity through technology-aided skill development and digital literacy for income generation and socio-democratic empowerment to address the pandemic-induced gender inequalities.”
Mr. Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, also reiterated the importance of collaborations between UNESCO Chairs. “I’m very happy to report that we are now working in partnership with Dr. Bhavani Rao and Amrita University on producing a flagship report on the Status of Women in Science in India. This will aim to analyze policy and the gaps and lessons learned and best practices with regard to women in science, envisioning to provide a platform of evidence-based policy to support more women in science fields. The potential in India is absolutely enormous.” He continued, “We believe in the power of UNESCO chairs to expand UNESCO’s mandate and to help realize the 2030 Agenda because we are convinced that a sustainable and peaceful world will never be so without gender equality. Once again, I want to congratulate Amrita University.”
The global summit will be followed by a series of annual summits that illuminate the powerful role women and girls play in the world, and to address priority challenges and to explore solutions that accelerate the achievement of sustainable development goals in many contexts worldwide, including an upcoming Conference on December 6-8th, 2021.