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Ministers seated at table during the meeting

Ministers present actions on gender equality for consideration by Commonwealth leaders

27 September 2019

Women’s affairs ministers have agreed on actions to accelerate gender equality to be presented to Commonwealth leaders when they meet in Rwanda next year.

The priorities are set out in the outcome statement made by the 12th Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The approaches agreed by ministers are being put forward for consideration by leaders when they meet for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The actions can directly benefit 1.1 billion women and girls living in the Commonwealth and include:

  • increasing women’s participation in decision-making and leadership;
  • ensuring access to at least 12 years of free quality education for girls;
  • putting in place and upholding comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights for women and girls;
  • providing resources to enforce laws which protect women from violence in the workplace, public spaces and in their homes; and
  • focusing on women and girls in national plans for addressing climate change and disaster.

Ministers agreed that implementation of these actions would accelerate progress towards achieving gender equality targets in the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth by the UN-agreed 2030 deadline for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “This meeting has shown the real value of multilateral cooperation among such a diverse family of nations as the Commonwealth. We are seeing really encouraging progress along the road towards achieving gender equality in our member countries.

“Mobilising collective political will is key to changing the pace of global efforts on gender equality, and working together in the Commonwealth we are able to harness the collective potential of 53 member countries for what is such a dynamic driver of sustainable development.”

During the two-day meeting, non-communicable diseases, gender mainstreaming and cervical cancer were all on the wide-ranging agenda. The research shows without a radical action taken, cervical cancer deaths will rise by 62 per cent by 2030. It means a woman will die of cervical cancer every three minutes in the Commonwealth.

In response, ministers agreed to strengthen women and girls access to quality healthcare, which they said is highly important for the delivery of the 2030 Agenda.

Ministers also asked the Commonwealth to establish a Women’s Ministers Action Group to boost collective action on promoting gender equality in member countries.

The meeting was a platform for ministers from over 30 countries to review the current state of gender equality and share country perspectives that can help accelerate the progress towards equality. The next meeting will be in the Caribbean in 2022.

12th Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting Outcome Statement