The beauty of our fight for gender equality is that every human being will gain from it.

Melinda French Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Generation Equality Forum, held in Paris from June 30 – July 2, 2021 and livestreamed to participants around the world, was a monumental event that set a new and unprecedented level of funding to prioritize and implement gender equality programs and commitments. 

The total amount of new funding is $40 billion over 5 years — “the largest amount of investment to advance gender equality and women’s rights ever” — with $2 billion coming from the public sector, $4 billion from philanthropy, and $13 billion from the private sector.

A quarter century after the UN Women’s Conference, at which 189 countries pledged to adopt the ambitious Beijing “Platform for Action” to achieve gender equity, once again political leaders, feminist movement leaders, corporate executives and activists gathered to address the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women and girls, and to commit to action that will accelerate global progress over the next five years, by 2026.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduced 17-year-old Chilean feminist Julieta Martínez who said girls her age who fight for equality “feel alone.” Read Julieta’s recent post at The Elders’ Blog. | UN Women/Fabrice Gentile / Flickr

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who memorably declared in Beijing that “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights,” spoke in Paris, and she reflected on the past 25 years, saying, “Now looking back, I believe we have made progress not near enough, and that we have to recommit ourselves to going even further. But we also need the power to claim the rights. Rights without power [add] up to very little.”

World leaders from Sweden, Finland, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa and Tunisia joined French president, Emmanuel Macron, and Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in Paris, while other leaders, including US Vice President Kamala Harris, delivered remarks virtually.

Scenes from the Opening Session of the Generation Equality Forum, held in Paris, France on 30 June 2021. | UN Women/Fabrice Gentile / Flickr

Nearly 50,000 activists, politicians, philanthropists, and business leaders registered for the conference, and many participated online during three days of presentations, film screenings and action coalition announcements.  

Organizers focused on catalyzing action in six thematic areas: gender-based violence, economic justice, sexual and reproductive health rights, climate justice, technology and innovation, and feminist movements and leadership. “The funding will go toward instituting hundreds of new gender-focused policy proposals” related to these issue areas, reported The New York Times. The convening launched a Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality to be carried out over the next five years.

“The world has been fighting for gender equality for decades, but progress has been slow. Now is the chance to reignite a movement and deliver real change,” Melinda French Gates told The Guardian. At GEF, the Gates Foundation announced “a new commitment of $2.1 billion over five years to economic empowerment, health and family planning, and accelerating women in leadership.”

Melinda French Gates at the Generation Equality Forum, held in Paris, France on 30 June 2021.  | UN Women/Fabrice Gentile / Flickr

Other notable funding commitments from organizations and corporations include:

  • The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the world’s largest foundation focused on children: $500 million focused on climate change 
  • The Ford Foundation: $420 million, with $159 million devoted to addressing gender-based violence
  • The World Bank committing to funding programs in 12 African states to tackle gender inequalities 
  • P&G committing to advance women’s economic justice and rights through its global value chain by spending $10 billion with women-owned and women-led businesses through 2025
  • Women Moving Millions: $100 million
  • Open Society Foundations: at least $100 million to fund feminist political mobilization and leadership 
  • PayPal: $100 million to advance women’s economic empowerment
  • The Malala Fund: at least $20 million in new feminist funding to girls education activists.

(Read More: 14 biggest pledges from the Generation Equality Forum in ParisBillions pledged to tackle gender inequality at UN forum)

As some parts of the world start to emerge from the pandemic, it is essential that gender equality is at the heart of building back better. It’s time to stop talking and start funding the organizations that are driving change and the necessary progress on global gender equality.

Nicolette Naylor, Programme Director, Ford Foundation in The Guardian

In addition to these bold investments, heads of state, NGOs, activists, philanthropists and corporations made more than 1,000 commitments to action. Forum organizers expect that the approximately 1,000 commitment-makers, including 440 civil society organizations and 94 youth-led organizations, will be joined by many others over the next five years.

All commitment-makers, from grassroots activist organizations to UN member states, were required to submit their commitments ahead of the conference and were encouraged to “submit clear, measurable proposals that fell under any of the six main policy areas,” according to The New York Times

“Some government representatives tried to sneak in half-baked commitments, such as laws that had already been passed or items with no budget attached,” [French Ambassador and Secretary-General of the Forum, Delphine O] said. “In those cases, UN Women went back to those participants and asked them to step up their game.”

The US committed to a range of significant policies and investment requests including an investment of $1 billion to support programs to end violence against women, and $175 million to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. The White House also pledged to prioritize the reauthorization and strengthening of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the House of Representatives this spring with bipartisan support and is pending in the Senate. “This is the strongest that the US has come in, in many years,” Sarah Hendriks, director of the policy and intergovernmental division at UN Women told The New York Times.

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks virtually at the Generation Equality Forum, held in Paris, France on 30 June 2021. | UN Women/Fabrice Gentile / Flickr

In addition, the Forum also launched a Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, and announced new gender equality initiatives focused on health, sports, culture, and education. The Compact calls for the “redesign of peace and security and humanitarian processes to systematically and meaningfully include women and girls – including peacebuilders, refugees, other forcibly displaced and stateless women and girls – in the decisions that impact their lives.” 

Connected Women Leaders (CWL), a Rockefeller-funded initiative that I co-lead, with partners Ronda Carnegie and Hafsat Abiloa, committed to mobilize and amplify women leaders around the world. CWL’S mission is to activate women leaders, working together, sharing experiences and diverse perspectives, to shape innovative solutions to global challenges and mobilize their networks, communities, and constituencies for action and implementation. (Learn more…)

Another commitment addressed new threats to safety that women didn’t face 25 years ago in Beijing. The CEOs of Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter pledged to work to end the abuse of women on their platforms, and to support gender equality and the empowerment of women in tech. The same day that commitment was announced, prominent women around the world signed an open letter acknowledging the pledge as a positive first step and encouraging deeper commitments to truly make the internet inclusive and safe for everyone.

Ahead of the opening of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, France, dignitaries gather to view a new mural produced for the forum by street artist Lula Goce. | Photo: UN Women/Fabrice Gentile

The open letter was signed by more than 200 women, including Michelle Bachelet, the first female president of Chile; former prime minister of Australia Julia Gillard, UK member of Parliament Diane Abbott; Rage Becomes Her author Soraya Chemaly; and actress Ashley Judd, who gave a TEDWoman talk in 2016 — “How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control” — speaking about her personal experience with digital abuse calling on legislators and the tech community to take a stand against online harassment. I also signed and will be inviting others to join us. (Add your name, here.)

“As you work toward these goals, we’ll be watching: We will recognize when you make progress and hold you to account when you don’t,” the letter said. “If you build this better internet for women, you will build a better internet for everyone. You have the way. Now show the world that you also have the will.” 

All in all, the Generation Equality Forum was an inspiring, purposeful, and hopeful event. But now the real work begins. 

UN Women will maintain a critical role driving the Forum’s 5-year action journey, overseeing the implementation of commitments to ensure accountability and progress over the next five years. 

“Together we have mobilized across different sectors of society, from south to north, to become a formidable force, ready to open a new chapter in gender equality,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.




  • Pat Mitchell is a lifelong advocate for women and girls. At every step of her career, Mitchell has broken new ground for women, leveraging the power of media as a journalist, an Emmy award-winning and Oscar-nominated producer to tell women’s stories and increase the representation of women onscreen and off. Transitioning to an executive role, she became the president of CNN Productions, and the first woman president and CEO of PBS and the Paley Center for Media. Today, her commitment to connect and strengthen a global community of women leaders continues as a conference curator, advisor and mentor. In partnership with TED, Mitchell launched TEDWomen in 2010 and is its editorial director, curator and host. She is also a speaker and curator for the annual Women Working for the World forum in Bogota, Colombia, the Her Village conference in Beijing, and the Women of the World (WOW) festival in London. In 2017, she launched the Transformational Change Leadership Initiative with the Rockefeller Foundation focused on women leaders in government and civil society. In 2014, the Women’s Media Center honored Mitchell with its first-annual Lifetime Achievement Award, now named in her honor to commend other women whose media careers advance the representation of women. Recognized by Hollywood Reporter as one of the most powerful women in media, Fast Company’s “League of Extraordinary Women” and Huffington Post’s list of “Powerful Women Over 50,” Mitchell also received the Sandra Day O'Connor Award for Leadership. She is a contributor to Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership, and wrote the introduction to the recently published book and museum exhibition, 130 Women of Impact in 30 Countries. In 2016, she served as a congressional appointment to The American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council. She is writing a memoir, Becoming a Dangerous Woman: Embracing a Life of Power and Purpose, that will be published in 2019. Mitchell is active with many nonprofit organizations, serving as the chair of the boards of the Sundance Institute and the Women’s Media Center. She is a founding member of the VDAY movement and on the boards of the Skoll Foundation and the Acumen Fund. She is also an advisor to Participant Media and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mitchell is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia and holds a master's degree in English literature and several honorary doctorate degrees. She and her husband, Scott Seydel, live in Atlanta and have six children and 13 grandchildren.