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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development

Women's Mobilization for Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in the 20 Years since Beijing

Date: 10 Mar 2015

UNRISD organized a Side Event at the 59th Commission on the Status of Women in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (New York Office) as part of its activities in engaging with Beijing+20. The event was a huge success with over 90 participants, and more who had to be turned away for lack of space.

The Fourth World Conference on Women set out an expansive vision and set of commitments for achieving gender equality in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The past two decades have seen the gender equality become a priority in policies and advocacy across the world, at national and international levels. As a result of advocacy, several states have put in place new policies and laws on issues such as violence against women, domestic workers’ rights, access to land and property, women’s political participation, and sexual and reproductive health rights.

However, women’s advocacy tends to focus on certain issues while paying less attention to others that are equally important to women’s lives and well-being. For instance, in some cases, it has been easier to adopt quota systems in national assemblies than to challenge customary practices and laws governing marriage, divorce, property rights and inheritance.

Making claims, changing policy?

In this context, it is important to understand the process of women’s claims-making. At the side event, speakers discussed how women’s movements can effectively mobilize for policy change by exploring specific questions:
  • What mechanisms are necessary to ensure that issues get on policy agendas? Why are certain issues left out from policy agendas of social movements and states, while others become priorities?
  • What are the factors and conditions under which non-state actors can effectively trigger and influence policy change? How do women’s movements articulate their claims?

The discussion aims to support women’s rights advocates in their efforts to push for laws and policies for gender equality. The event is based on findings from the UNRISD research project When and Why Do States Respond to Women's Claims?

  • Valeria Esquivel, UNRISD Research Coordinator, Gender and Development

  • Nitya Rao, Professor of Gender and Development, University of East Anglia
  • Anne-Marie Goetz, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University
  • Rob Jenkins, Professor, Hunter College
  • Elisa Vega Sillo, Head of the Office for Depatriarchalization of the Vice-Ministry of Decolonization, Division of Bolivia’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Photo credit: Gigi Ibrahim (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr.