Paris: As the world meets at the Generation Equality Forum, UNESCO is launching a set of concrete commitments to achieve tangible progress towards gender equality in key areas over the next five years while COVID-19 has magnified deeply rooted structural gender inequalities:
On Girls’ Education, UNESCO will continue to lead a multi-stakeholder global coalition to support girls’ education in the wake of COVID-19, reaching 28 million learners in more than 80 countries with quality gender-transformative teaching and learning that promotes gender equality;
On Technology and Innovation, UNESCO will work to close the digital gender divide, empower women scientists, and promote the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence which is free of gender bias and sexism. UNESCO will, for example, enable 10,000 women physicists to take leadership roles and provide access to at least 10,000 girls in Africa to studies on microscience;
On Creativity, UNESCO will work to economically empower women artists and those working in the creative industries in Africa, by improving their access to audiences, funds, social protection schemes and increasing the number of creative industries enterprises owned and led by women, while promoting women’s rights to create, free of violence, sexism, and sexual harassment.
Gender Equality is a global priority for UNESCO that cuts across its fields of competence: education, science, culture and communication.
“Gender equality cannot be achieved without concrete measures,” says Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO. “Access to education for women and girls is a priority for UNESCO. Among other efforts, we are strengthening their access to scientific training where they are still under-represented. Our work also focuses on culture, where women’s representations are essential and where they are the most affected by the pandemic.”
Although women have been on the front lines of the crisis, they are suffering sever backlashes. In education, 767 million young women and girls were impacted by school closures and 11 million may never return to class, joining the 132 million who were already out of school before the crisis struck. From the economic perspective, the recession is pushing 47 million more women and girls into poverty, destroying their economic independence and making them more vulnerable to gender-based discrimination and violence.
We must ensure that progress achieved by countries around the world is sustained notably in education, where, according to a new UNESCO report, girls’ primary school completion rates have reached 87%, almost 20 percentage points more than 25 years ago.
Women still face all too many obstacles in science, despite the brilliant success of researchers like Kati Kariko, from Hungary, who contributed significantly to the creation of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine against coronavirus. UNESCO’s data shows that women make up only one out of three scientific researchers although they constitute 45 to 55% of all university students and 44% of PhD students. Only 3% of female higher education students, however, choose to study information and communication technologies. This is why UNESCO funds young women PhD researchers through its Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World. It also provides STEM mentorship programmes for high school girls to nurture their interest in the sciences through role models and provides courses in coding, robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
UNESCO further promotes the careers of young women scientists and gives visibility to their achievements through the annual UNESCO/L’Oréal For Women in Science Award. Since 1998, more than 3,600 women scientists have been recognized, 3,500 Young Rising Talents, PhD candidates and post-doctorates, were supported through financial support and leadership training. In addition, 117 Laureates have been honored for their excellence in science, including five who have gone on to win a scientific Nobel Prize.
In the field of culture, UNESCO’s recent publication Gender & Creativity: Progress on the Precipice, analyses the gender gaps in the cultural and creative industries where women artists and creators continue to face unequal access to decent work, unfair remuneration, marginalization, as well as limited access to information and communication technologies.