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On June 29th, Connected Women Leaders [CWL] co-hosted a Virtual Equality Lounge in Celebration of Generation Equality, along with The Female Quotient [FQ], United Nations Women, and the Generation Equality Forum. The event gathered leaders of organizations – including 30% Club, GWL Voices, International Gender Champions, The Elders, the Batonga Foundation, Women Political Leaders, Women Moving Millions, and Co-Impact – to speak in turn about the commitments they would be making in support of Generation Equality. The range of issues and ideas that surfaced over the course of this highly engaged dialogue included ways to hold commitment makers accountable to fulfill their commitments, challenging organizations for actions beyond their commitments, and the introduction of other inspiring commitments from all present.

The three-hour event featured high profile speakers, including UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Batonga Foundation Executive Director Emily Bove, and CWL managing partners, Ronda Carnegie and Hafsat Abiola. “Tomorrow, at the opening of Generation Equality,” said Phumzile as she opened the event, “we will be creating coalitions of actors against discrimination of women – and we’re not ending there.

Event Introduction with (top left moving clockwise) Ronda Carnegie, Danielle Kayembe, Shelley Zalis, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Hafsat Abiola

Forum moderator Danielle moved the conversation to the action coalition leader panel, in which panel moderator Stephanie Oula led a guided discussion between Siva Thanenthiran, Bodily Autonomy and SRHR Action Coalition Leader, Shamiso F V Chigorimbo, Feminist Movements and Leadership Action Coalition Leader, and Maria Reyes, Feminist Action for Climate Justice Action Coalition Leader. The conversation left viewers with a palpable air of excitement, as the leaders delved into the intersections between the coalitions and what we should expect post-GEF. “Commitment isn’t saying because I put in the money it’s enough,” shared Shamiso, “but committing to be challenged within our own organizations and do things differently.”

Commit to be challenged within our own organizations and do things differently.

Some of the most compelling findings of the day include:

  • Irina Bokova and María Fernanda Espinosa, members of GWL Voices, spoke of the growth and action GWL Voices has accomplished in the years since the Beijing conference 26 years ago, as well as their active participation in the 2021 Generation Equality Forum.
  • The Elders shared a pre-released film that will be showcased in Paris, featuring climate activist and former Ireland president Mary Robinson, former Education Minister of Mozambique Graça Machel, and leading women’s movement activist in Pakistan Hina Jilani, in which they boldly call upon governments and organizations to radically shift the way they approach women in the justice system.
  • Olivia Leland, CEO of Co-Impact, and Senior Advisor Geeta Rao Gupta shared the new Gender Fund that Co-Impact will use to accelerate funding for gender equality in organizations located in the global south, and gave accountability goals they aim to reach within the next 10 years.
  • Laura Whitcombe, Campaign Coordinator at 30% Club, reminded us that 30% is the floor goal, not the ceiling. 30% Club sees a big opportunity for collaboration, as they hold many events throughout the year. They are always looking for partners and starting new chapters.

The Batonga Foundation's Article featuring their GEF commitments presented during the Equality Lounge

Hafsat Abiola closed off this portion of the event with her poem, ‘Sisters,’ a deeply moving work encouraging women all over the world to continue leading, inspiring, and supporting one another. 

The forum then moved to Twitter Spaces – a new Twitter platform that allows up to 11 speakers to share discussion in a live podcast-esque format. During this 40 minute conversation, listeners heard from young female activists including Earth Guardians’ Youth Director Marlow Baines, The Oxygen Project’s Deep-Sea Mining Campaign Manager Vasser Seydel, Green Hope Foundation Founder Kehkashan Basu, Matriarch Movement Founder Shayla Stonechild, and Content Creator Lerai Rakoditsoe

Listeners heard of the life-changing work each young activist was accomplishing in the ever-present spirit of Generation Equality, including the 1000 Girls Campaign that Lerai began with the goal of distributing feminine hygiene products, the podcast Shayla Stonechild crafted featuring indigenous women’s voices, and the inclusivity of the Green Hope Foundation, started by Kehkashan, with a mission of gaining young people’s participation in the climate justice movement.

The website for Earth Guardians, of which Marlow Baines is the Youth Director

As the event drew to a close, the youth activists were asked one final question: What is a goal you have this year that will help the mission of Generation Equality forward? 

Lerai spoke about the benefits of moving mentorship of young girls into sponsorship of young girls. 

Kehkashan focused on renewing and deepening globalized ground-level action for feminist climate justice.

Shayla shared a bill at risk of being passed in Canada that would silence voices of creators like her – and vowed to continue speaking out, no matter the cost. 

Vasser echoed this sentiment, and promised to use her voice and optimize all her platforms of influence to elevate gender equality everywhere.

And Marlow summarized the thoughts of each speaker, viewer, and listener, ending the program by saying, “[I want to] focus on lifting up others – I think it’s so huge, and I want to step into a place wherever there is a need to really support my BIPOC brothers and sisters and people.”

I want to step into a place wherever there is a need to really support my BIPOC brothers and sisters and people.

The Equality Lounge was an event that truly illuminated the spirit of Connected Women Leaders – sharing, in community, the goals, hopes, and missions of women leaders, so that we may support one another in the achievement of reaching the goals of Generation Equality.

Join the community

Meaningful transformation can only be created when we work together. There’s room for everyone within CWL’s charge for change – as both members and allies to our mission. Find out how you fit within Connected Women Leaders’ goals.

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