From active funding to catalytic action

UN Women

The private sector and philanthropic foundations announce bold investments and actions for gender equality

The Private Sector Commitment Showcase, a high-level event held on Friday, 2 July, on the sidelines of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, was the premier moment where more than 70 businesses demonstrated and unveiled concrete commitments to gender equality in critical areas of women’s empowerment.

During her opening remarks, the Minister Delegate for Gender Equality in France, Elisabeth Moreno emphasized the importance of the private sector’s inclusion as part of the French Government’s vision for the Generation Equality Action Coalitions. She remarked, “We believe in the power of companies to enable the economic emancipation of women. One actor or one compartment of society alone will not solve the gender equality challenge”.

Minister Moreno expressed that with collective action we can look forward to a world in which girls are able to fulfill their professional aspirations, where they are not confronted to invisible glass ceilings, where they are able to get funding based on their merit, and finally a world in which female leadership is encouraged. She called on CEOs from across the globe to join forces, and follow in the footsteps of those who have already made bold commitments.

Other speakers included business leaders (PayPal, Estee Lauder, Women Leadership Capital, P&G, KEPSA, Cartier, Unilever) who discussed innovative ways to take a meaningful role in the sustainable development agenda and announced their commitments focused on new and ambitious investments and institutional change measures. The commitments are linked to the six thematic areas covered by the Generation Equality Action Coalitions, and support the creation of gender-responsive marketplaces, tackle gender inequalities in the workplace, and bridge the gender digital divide.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), an umbrella body of approximately 400 private sector entities in Kenya, announced their commitment to the Action Coalitions. CEO Carole Kariuki Karuga stated that the alliance already works in collaboration with the government and expressed, “There is no way that private sector would thrive if the country is not thriving in development and so matters like gender-based violence are very dear to the private sector [in Kenya] and we are committed to playing our roles [for prevention and response]”.

Businesses also reflected on lessons learned to scale up their ongoing commitment. Procter & Gamble highlighted their long-lasting, unwavering dedication to gender equality and announced their commitment to advance women’s economic justice and rights through their global value chain by spending; “Choosing equal is a societal imperative. Equality benefits all of us and it will take all of us – public sector, private sector, and civil society to make the progress we need”.

In another session at the Forum, philanthropic foundations stepped up to announce their active participation in financing gender equality and the key role of innovative partnership models to build back equal, better, and different.

The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), CEO, Kate Hampton highlighted the intersectional and systems-level change needed to ensure a gendered recovery. CIFF committed USD 500 million to the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and the Economic Justice Rights Action Coalitions. On their involvement in the SRHR Coalition, Hampton expressed, “Our commitment to SRHR focuses on scaling more gender-transformative approaches to contraception, safe abortion, and post-abortion care. A key piece of our work is to support girls and young women with their decision-making – with better access to self-care tools that remove barriers such as HIV self-testing or self-injectable contraceptives. This has the potential to be gender transformative because it enables women and girls to take control of their own bodies and their lives”.

The Ford Foundation honed in on how it’s building partnerships to leverage more and better funding. The Ford Foundation announced that it will be allocating USD 420 million over the next five years towards the global acceleration plan. Executive Vice President Hilary Pennington added, “The most concrete way of ensuring that our resources actually reach women is by partnering directly with organizations working on the frontlines. So in our work in India, South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, and other places – we, like others, are directing multi-year general support funding to women’s rights organizations in those contexts and giving them the flexibility they need to see around the corner and be able to be the first move rand as they see changes that are required by COVID and others”.

Other bold commitment came from Women Moving Millions (USD 100 million); Women’s Funding Network which committed to raising USD 100 million over the next 5 years, the Ford Foundation Black Feminist Fund which focuses on significantly increasing funds for Black Feminist Organizations across Africa, Europe and the America and the newly established Co-Impact Gender Fund which unites philanthropists, women-led organizations, feminist movements and in-country partners to advance gender equality. The Fund aims to disburse USD 1 billion over 10 years, supporting organizations working in the Global South to transform systems, advance women’s leadership at all levels, and shift harmful gender norms. The session also showcased speakers and commitments from The Open Society Foundation, Fondation Chanel, Edelgive Foundation.

CEO Mark Suzman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation concluded the session and reflected, “Our collective investments in the GEF have laid the groundwork for genuinely meaningful change. The Action Coalitions have leveraged the best ideas from sectors that don’t always come together to collaborate… and together we have built a platform to advocate for more and better resources that the gender community desperately needs over the long haul”. The BMGB commitment USD 2.1 billion over the next five years to advance women’s economic empowerment, strengthen women and girls’ health and family planning, and accelerate women’s leadership.

UN Women highlighted the importance of momentum in such process, and Director and co-lead of the Action Coalitions Sarah Hendriks emphasized the need to “continue working together to be accountable for delivering on these commitments, and to share the stories of real impact, in real time, encouraging more to join us”.

To learn more about how to join and become an Action Coalition commitment-maker, visit: https://forum.generationequality.org/action-coalitions

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