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Gender equality must be at the heart of the global COVID-19 recovery, says Amujae Leader Bogolo Kenewendo

For too long, discussions about gender equality have been relegated to side events of international summits, and according to Amujae Leader Bogolo Kenewendo, it is long past time for the topic to take center stage. 

Speaking at an SDG Action Zone event, focused on “A New Era for Women and Girls,” Ms. Kenewendo called for renewed political will to further gender equality efforts around the world. In light of how women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Kenewendo said: 

“We have to have the political will that ensures that as we build back, as we work on these COVID-19 recovery policies, that we have women and gender equality issues right at the heart of recovery.”

Adding a gender lens to all levels of policymaking and earmarking development funding specifically for women’s empowerment initiatives will be essential to improving the situation for women, Ms. Kenewendo said. However, more than just equal representation is needed to achieve true change:

“Over and above having equal representation is agency in representation… We don’t want and then not have a voice. We want that voice, and it’s that voice that will bring about change.”

Ms. Kenewendo, who is a member of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council and was the youngest Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry of Botswana, emphasized that it is “up to us everyday people in the street and civil society” to pressure governments and change social norms to ensure equal access to opportunities. She said:

“Normative change happens at every level. It has to happen at the individual and family level for us to have the kind of impact from the ground up. I think the role of young people is incredibly important… They are imagining a different kind of world… They want a more democratic, gender-equal, sustainable planet… There has got to be space for young people to be part of the decision-making process for the world that they’re going to inherit.” 

In closing, Ms. Kenewendo called for conversations on gender equality to be moved “from side events to main sessions and plenaries” and for the inclusion of more men in gender equality discussions.

The panel was part of the three-day SDG Action Zone event held alongside the United Nations General Assembly. The session was moderated by Katja Iversen, prominent gender equality advocate and former President of Women Deliver, and also featured six other distinguished experts on international development and gender equality in addition to Ms. Kenewendo. 

Watch the full panel session here. Ms. Kenewendo joins the panel at 42:30.

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