The voice of Georgian women was strong this week at a regional meeting organized at United Nations headquarters in Geneva to bring together representatives of the 56 countries that are members of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to review progress and identify challenges in achieving gender equality across the region. Georgian participants included representatives of the Government Administration, the Parliament’s Gender Equality Council, Bolnisi Municipality and civil society. Georgian examples also featured prominently in the regional report prepared for the occasion.

First up was a side event organized with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swedish Gender Equality Agency, in which delegations from Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and Ukraine debated how to ensure women have a fair say in politics and decision-making.

The discussion opened with a powerful video statement made by six prominent Georgian figures – politicians, civic activists, researchers and artists – to highlight the political and economic challenges faced by women in Georgia and demand an end to gender stereotypes and greater equality in all areas of life.

“Georgia’s statehood stands on the principles of equality and human rights,” said Natalia Jaliashvili, Head of the Human Rights Secretariat at Georgia’s Government Administration. “We are moving forward in carrying out democratic reforms, but we also acknowledge the remaining gaps, including the need to address gender-based violence and the low levels of political and economic participation of Georgian women.”

“Georgia can rightly point to many achievements in women’s rights,” said Louisa Vinton, UNDP Head in Georgia. “However, women are still relegated to margins in political decision-making, with only 15 percent of the seats in Parliament and only one of 64 mayoral posts. With parliamentary elections approaching in 2020, we see an urgent need to reverse this trend and confront the gender backlash building across the region.”

Georgian participation was also prominent in one of the conference’s main sessions, which was dedicated to closing gender gaps through effective economic and social policies. Here representatives of the Parliament’s Gender Equality Council joined the Office of Iceland’s Prime Minister, the European Institute for Gender Equality, and private sector representatives in assessing progress in women’s economic empowerment and debating possible solutions to the notable gender pay gap in the region. On average women in the UNECE region earn 82 percent of what men make, whereas in Georgia the figure is just 64 percent.

These events were part of a much larger program taking place over two days at the Palais des Nations. The regional gathering, organised by UNECE and the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, was designed as a preparatory event for the global review of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that takes place in March 2020 in New York, at the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. National reports prepared by all signatory countries to the Beijing Declaration will feed into a global report that will assess the implementation of the Declaration across its 12 priority areas of concern. The 2020 review marks the 25th anniversary of adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the first five-year milestone in the period dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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