The Global Summit for Gender-Related Chairs and Networks (W36) convened on August 19-20 and brought together UNESCO Chairs from around the world. Hosted by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, the summit invited 36 gender-related UNESCO Chairs and networks to share visions, bring together voices, and spark momentum for addressing challenges and co-building a bright future for all women and girls– especially within the fallout of the pandemic.
Dr. Bhavani Rao, UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment said, “It’s such an honor indeed to be a part of this wonderful network created by UNESCO — the UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN programs–– for bringing focus, collaboration and access and for also increasing our boundaries in terms of knowledge, connections, and capacity. We gather here today to share what we have learned from the past, and how it has helped us to understand the present.”
Dr. Tarek Rashed, Moderator and Adjunct Professor at the Center for Women’s Empowerment & Gender Equality, kicked off the event with congenial words, “We sincerely thank each of you – especially those who decided to come forward and participate in this summit despite the vast difference in the time zones. Today’s event is all about shaking hands, getting to know each other, and finding ways to collaborate and work together.”
The summit included academics, researchers, students, NGOs, change makers and other stakeholders which resulted in hundreds of participants from more than 46 countries. Over 54 presentations and interventions took place in various sessions, and the draft of a signed declaration by all invited UNESCO Chairs was shared for all to witness.
Over the course of the summit, participants discussed the most recent trends, concerns and solutions adopted to address practical challenges and improve women’s resilience.
Ms. Ava DuVernay, Guest of Honor and Co-Chair, Prada Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council shared some inspiring words via a pre-recorded message she made exclusively for this summit: “Women supporting women is a beautiful and brave thing. I count myself lucky to be the recipient of such support. I greatly value paying it forward in the work that I do each and every day. I salute you from all from afar and thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this global summit hosted by Amrita University. I am so inspired by the fantastic work that Amma does day in and day out to further ensure that no woman or girl is left behind.”
In speaking about the vision of UNESCO and the road ahead, Ms. Jamila Seftaoui, Director, Division for Gender Equality, Cabinet of the Director-General, UNESCO, Paris delivered hopeful words in her keynote address: “My vision for the next biennium builds on past progress and takes into consideration the huge still untapped potential of UNESCO to change people’s lives, in particular women’s and girls’ lives for good, for the better,” said Ms. Seftaoui.
Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, UNESCO Chair on Experiential Learning for Sustainable Innovation & Development reiterated these sentiments in her short presentation about the fundamental principles behind Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham guided by Chancellor Sri Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma). “It is indeed a happy moment to be a part of this Global Summit for Gender-Related Chairs and Networks. I am very much looking forward to seeing all the women experts in this area. Being a woman myself, I hope that this summit paves the way to shaping a world that holds a bright future for women all across the world.” Amma has dedicated her life to promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality. With her guidance, the CWEGE under UNESCO Chair has made significant collaborations with international and grassroots partners around the world.
Day 1 featured distinguished speakers from around the world, including keynote speeches during the opening session by:
-Ms. Jamila Seftaoui, Director, Division for Gender Equality, UNESCO, Paris
-Mr. Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka
-Dr. Gloria Bonder, Coordinator of the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender
-Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, UNESCO Chair on Experiential Learning for Sustainable Innovation & Development, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
-Dr. Bhavani Rao R., UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, , Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
-Dr. Tarek Rashed, Moderator, Adjunct Professor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham; Founder of Civilizology
The rest of the day and beginning of the second day featured presentations by UNESCO Chairs of their mission, flagship projects and wishes for the Summit (“Meet the UNESCO Chairs” sessions), from around the world including:
- Argentina – Dr. Gloria Bonder, UNESCO Chair on Women, Sciences and Technology, Coordinator of the UNESCO Regional Chair on Women, Science and Technology in Latin America, Coordinator of the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender
- Brazil – Prof. Maria Luiza Teofilo Gandini, UNESCO Chair on Water, Women and Development
- Côte d’Ivoire – Prof. Euphrasie Hortense Yao Kouassi, UNESCO Chair on Water, Women and Decision-making, represented by Alexis TCHIAKPE, General Administrator of the Chair
- Egypt – Prof. Boshra Mossaad Awad, UNESCO Chair on the Empowerment of Women through Science and Technology
- Greece – Dr. Fotini Bellou, UNESCO Chair on Women, Peace and Security: Building Capacity and Resilience through Education and Research
- Italy – Dr. Barbara Pozzo, UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights in the Multicultural Society
- Japan – Dr. Ronni Alexander, UNESCO Chair on Gender and Vulnerability in Disaster Risk Reduction Support
- South Korea – Dr. Yunkeum Chang, UNESCO Chair in Communication Technology for Women
- Kenya – Dr. Marleen Temmerman, UNESCO Chair on Youth Leadership in Science, Health, Gender and Education
- Kenya – Dr. Winnie V. Mitullah, UNESCO Chair in Women and Community Health
- Peru – Dr. Patricia Ruíz-Bravo and Aranxa Pizarro, UNESCO chair on Gender Equality in Higher Education institutions
- Poland – Dr. Renata Siemienska, UNESCO Chair in Women, Society and Development
- Turkey – Dr. Hülya Şimga, UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Culture
- Haiti – Dr. Rose-Michelle SMITH, UNESCO Chair on Women and Science for Development
- Spain – Dr. Ines Sánchez de Madariaga, UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality Policies in Science, Technology and Innovation
- Turkey – Dr. Oder Bertil Emrah, UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality and Sustainable Development
Contributions spanned from systems thinking methods and models to computational social sciences to technological innovations. Day 1 concluded with the UNESCO Chairs reviewing a draft joint declaration, that would later be signed, to affirm intent and commitment to build pathways of collaboration towards the shared goals of decelerating the impacts of COVID-19 for women and girls in the post pandemic era.
On Day 2, participants attended plenaries on Thematic and Applied Research by scholars and researchers affiliated with the UNESCO chairs and partner research centers from over 46 countries. Dr. Joost Monks, Lecturer, University of Geneva and longstanding friend, admirer and supporter of Amrita University moderated the sessions.
Participants broke into smaller group sessions to focus on their specific fields, including Science & Technology; Education & Skill Development; Society, Culture & Legal Rights; Health & Nutrition; Safety & Security; Environment & Sustainability; Finance & Economics; and Communication & Leadership.
The following thematic and applied research topics were presented in two parallel sessions. Presentations covered diverse applied research areas dedicated to women’s empowerment and offered tools in advancing women’s rights and wellbeing. Research included:
- Gender Dynamics: A Case Study of Role Allocation in Engineering Education
- PARWEE – Priority Action Roadmap for Women’s Economic Empowerment in the wake of COVID-19
- Intelligent Assistive Devices with Community Platform backing: A Socio-Economic Intervention for Gender-inclusive Assistive Technology
- Reboot and Recovery: Solutions for Challenges faced by Small Women-Led Businesses, Post-Pandemic
- Gender Friendly Tools and Equipment in Farm Mechanization
- An Autonomous Social Robot to Promote Proper Hand Hygiene Among Children in India
- Gender Intersectionality in Recycling
- Actions for Better Gender Inclusion in Management Integrated Water Resources
- Inside-Out: The Effect of Covid-19 Pandemic on the Ritualistic Traditions
- The Culture of Spiritual Connectedness to Nature: Towards Sustainable Water Management in South India
- Internal Migration and Feminization of Labour Among Refugees: The Post-Pandemic Role of Female Refugees in Adagon Refugee Settlement
- Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Women Employment and Leadership as Onboard Maritime Officers in India
Mr. Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka also reiterated the importance of collaborations between UNESCO Chairs and highlighted those with Amrita. “I’m very happy to report that we are now working in partnership with Dr. Bhavani Rao and Amrita University on producing a flagship report on the Status of Women in Science in India. This will aim to analyze policy, but also the gaps and lessons learned and best practices with regard to women in science, envisioning to provide a platform of evidenced based policy to support more women in science fields. The potential in India is absolutely enormous.” He continued, “Again with Dr. Rao and her team, we have also been working very closely on implementing a national program on engaging men and boys for gender equality. This is entitled, Transforming MENtalities. Among other actions, we have developed a Scoping Report for India on masculinities with recommendations on how the government, civil society and relevant stakeholders on how to make progress on this issue. These are a part of the projects we have developed in the last year and half.”
He continued, “we believe in the power of UNESCO chairs to expand UNESCO’s mandate and to help realize the 2030 Agenda because we are convinced that a sustainable and peaceful world will never be so without gender equality. Once again, I want to congratulate Amrita University.”
“May this meeting be just the beginning of lasting friendships and alliances,” said Dr. Bhavani Rao, “In keeping with Chancellor Amma’s vision of a genuinely inclusive future, we approach gender equality as our goal, using women’s empowerment as an appropriate equitable means to attain the same.”
The Global Summit offered a powerful platform to support the transformation process and reach out to all women worldwide, so no woman or girl is left behind.
Amongst the many outcomes of this Summit, the UNESCO Chairs will gather again on a yearly basis and explore potential collaborations and solutions in more details. A specific conference will also be organized on December 6-8, 2021 for Accelerating Women’s Empowerment through System Oriented Model Expansion (AWESOME Conference), on a solution model for delivering effective transformational change and durable interventional strategies towards the empowerment of women and strengthening gender equality in communities.
Catch the replays of the Global Summit on the AMMACHI Labs YouTube Channel