Know the GAP Lecture Series

In early 2019, the WTI Gender Team established the Know the GAP Lecture Series. These lectures are conceived as an innovative venue to bring accomplished scholars, leaders of international organizations, government, and the private sector, to the University of Bern. Throughout the year we will share the stories of inspirational women and the results of original research to make a concrete contribution to the progressive achievement of United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 – Gender Equality. Speakers will engage the public on numerous pressing gender issues and topics, including: gender history; gender equality and human rights; politics of gender and race in the Anthropocene; and gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Looking for Gender Parity

Highly-educated and diligently cohesive? An analysis of Italian women MPs in the current legislature (26 April 2022)

by Dr Simona Guerra, SFHEA, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Surrey, UK.


The 2018 Italian general election brought to the Parliament a record number of women MPs, 225 out of 630 (35.71%) deputies, with the Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle: M5S) electing the youngest (25-year-old). In a country, where women have held only 78 ministerial positions out of more 1,500 in 64 governments (Italian Senate, 2018), confirming that politics looks as a man’s world (Jalalzai and Krook, 2010), this analysis examines who these women are and what positions they cover in the current legislature. Studies show that political parties largely remain as gate-keepers (Pansardi, 2016), affecting gender-biased selection at committee appointments (Pansardi and Vercesi, 2017). Yet, women represent a more cohesive group when elected (Papavero and Zucchini, 2012) and remain closer to the centre of the party. As that could show their perfect integration, but also their political weakness within the party, this study examines the data from the Italian Ministry of Interior, the results from an elite survey and semi-structured interviews. After outlining who these MPs are and what they do, the analysis seeks to address whether the empirical evidence can sustain that being a woman is doing politics differently or simply observe more cohesion (Cowley and Child, 2003).

Gender and Climate Change: an update from the Sixty-Sixth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (29 March 2022)

Prof. Elisa Fornalé, Swiss National Science Foundation Professor at the World Trade Institute, the University of Bern.
Adriana Quiñones, Director, UN Women Liaison Office in Geneva.
Dr Mithika Mwenda, Co-founder and Executive Director, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance.
Joni van de Sand, Global Co-Director, MenEngage Alliance.

Moderated by Fleur Heyworth Head of the International Gender Champions Secretariat and Head of Gender Equality and Inclusive Security at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.


As the sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) taking place from 14 to 25 March, 2022 concludes. The Secretariat of the International Gender Champions (IGC) together with the World Trade Institute (WTI) at the University of Bern, as part of the Know the GAP gender lecture series, presents the webinar titled Gender and Climate Change: an Update from the Commission on the Status of Women.
This one-hour hybrid webinar aims to bring focus and clarity to the key messages, challenges and opportunities emerging from CSW66 and the priority theme: Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies, and programmes. Speakers will bring insights from their area of work and bring forward suggestions for collective action to address feminist action for climate justice.

Women and the UN: A New History of Women’s International Human Rights (8 March 2022)

by Rebecca Adami, Associate Professor at the Department of Education, Stockholm University and Research Associate at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS University of London (School of Oriental and African Studies).


The international legal framework of human rights permeates international diplomacy, gender equality policies and development aid projects. The continuation, however, of colonial patterns of economic injustices and imperialistic tendencies of internationalization and globalization has dominantly cast human rights as a western creation. In the lecture new research on UN history revisits the drafting and conflicts behind key human rights treaties—from the UN Charter in 1945 to the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000. In what ways were the universality of human rights and gender equality inscribed in core documents of the UN through contribution thanks to women delegates from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Egypt, Guinea, Togo, Nigeria, the Philippines, Ghana, and Namibia?

The Venice Commission and Gender Equality (22 February 2022)

by Veronika Bílková, head of the Centre of International Law at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, and Associate Professor in International Law at the Faculty of Law of the Charles University in Prague.


The Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy Through Law (the so-called Venice Commission) is well-known for its work in many fields. Gender equality has traditionally not been one of them. And yet, over the years, the Venice Commission has produced a number of opinions and studies which touch upon this issue area and help clarify legal and social standards applicable in it. It has also played an important role in the promotion of some of the instruments aimed at ensuring gender equality, especially the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (the so called Istanbul Convention). The lecture will introduce and critically assess the outputs of the Venice Commission and the standards identified by it. It will also consider to what extent the Venice Commission itself, in its composition and activities, lives up to these standards.

Gender Parity in International Courts and Organs: Moving the Agenda Forward After the Groundbreaking Human Council’s Report on the Representation of Women in International Human Rights Mechanisms (25 January 2022)

by Prof. Claudia Martin, Co-Director of the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and Professorial Lecturer in Residence at American University Washington College of Law.


In 2015, a group of female human rights lawyers launched GQUAL, a campaign to address women’s underrepresentation in international justice. As part of our work, GQUAL contributed to the adoption of a report by the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on “Current levels of representation of women in human rights organs and mechanisms” in 2021. This ground-breaking report was the first document prepared by the Human Rights Council on the issue of gender balance in UN Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures. It provides a clear roadmap for States, the UN, and other actors to achieve gender equality. In addition to acknowledging that underrepresentation of women in international bodies is a long-standing issue, the report concludes with a set of targeted recommendations to the Human Rights Council and its organs, the States, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Among the most important recommendations, the report focuses on the role of States in selecting and nominating more women to international positions and devising voting mechanisms that make gender parity in the composition of international courts and organs a reality. Moreover, to achieve success, the role of the Human Rights Council will remain essential to follow up on the key actors identified in the report and press for the adoption of the necessary measures to ensure women’s equal representation in the not-so-distant future. Ultimately, as the report acknowledges, the underrepresentation of women in international justice not only breaches the principle of equality and non-discrimination, but also questions the effectiveness and legitimacy of UN bodies and mechanisms, limiting their potential and impact.

Building Resilience or Just Coping- How Women in Fiji are Faring with Climate Change and Disasters (14 December 2021)

by Nalini Singh, Feminist, Human Rights Activist and Director of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement.


The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), established in 1986, is a multi- ethnic and multicultural non-governmental organization committed to removing all forms of discrimination against women through institutional reform and attitudinal change. By means of its core programmes on Gender and Transitional Justice and Intergenerational Women in Leadership, FWRM practices and promotes feminism, democracy, and the rule of law, good governance and human rights. We strive to empower, unite and provide leadership opportunities for women in Fiji, especially for emerging young leaders. Fiji is made up of many small islands, prone to natural disasters and the impact of climate change i.e. sea-level rise, ocean warming, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts. When we look at the context of gender, climate change and disasters only deepens existing inequalities for women and girls in Fiji. Our research shows that many women and girls are more likely to live in poverty compared to men, have limited access to resources, land, assets, and as well as the cultural, attitudinal and institutional barriers that affect women’s ability to participate in decision making especially around building resilience. As such, it is imperative that laws and policies around climate change and disaster risk reduction and management recognize the inequalities and vulnerabilities for women and girls to ensure that there is a targeted approach to support strengthening women’s resilience.

The United States Commitment to Women’s Empowerment (7 December 2021)

by Eva Weigold Schultz, Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Bern on January 17, 2021. She is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service.

Reflecting on Equal Participation, Representation and Women’s Empowerment

Achievements and Hurdles towards Beijing+30: Women’s Human Rights under Democratic Regression (5 May 2021)

by Prof. Bertil Emrah Oder, UNESCO Chairholder on Gender Equality and Sustainable Development, Dean, Koç University Law School.


In 2020, the 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CWS) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that serves as the roadmap of the women's human rights for realizing gender equality in full terms. 189 States supported the Beijing roadmap in the strongest political terms for concerted actions. Despite achievements towards gender equality under active oversight of women's organizations, the blueprint of the Beijing Platform of Action needs still to be recommitted after 25 years. The CWS reiterates the "mutually reinforcing relationship" between achieving gender equality and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The women's NGOs recall substantial action before 2030 by drawing attention to a regime of gender inequality and the slow progress towards empowerment of women and girls. While the gender equality gaps in education, political, economic participation, and health are priorities of concern at the global level, the COVID-19 has increased the violence against women and women's unemployment due to isolations and occupational clustering worldwide. Against such a backdrop, the global regression and/or stagnation in democracy create a new contestation area focusing on gender equality having commonalities in different countries. This lecture will elaborate on the future of women's human rights as promised by the States in the Beijing Platform of Action in the light of diffusion of gender backlash strategies and democratic regression. In this respect, the current discussions in Turkey, Poland, and Hungary will be a matter of interest for predictions.

Gender Smart Financing: Opportunities for Europe (21 April 2021)

by Dr Letizia Castellano, Policy Assistant to Markus Schulte, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs, DDG2.02 Financing of Innovation, Competitiveness and Employment Policies, European Commission.


Studies show that gender-diverse teams produce better results. However, women remain underrepresented when it comes to investment, both as beneficiaries of investment and as decision-makers. In 2018, over 90% of capital raised by tech companies backed by European venture capital (VC) went to teams that did not have a single female founder. This presentation is based on the paper “Gender Smart Financing. Investing In & With Women: Opportunities for Europe”. The objective of this paper was to collect various studies on the topic of gender in finance under the same umbrella to show the variety of data and different angles of the conversation. It discusses the reasons behind the gender investment gap, with a focus on the lack of female investors, and presents ideas and opportunities on how to tackle these challenges in Europe – in short: how to make finance gender-smart. The presentation will look at how further understanding of the impacts gender smart financing brings to the economy will be instrumental to move this relatively unknown field of study forward to eventually harness the new insights for improving women’s presence in financial sectors. The existing studies show that women’s wealth is on the rise, and women tend to invest in more long-term and impactful projects. Investing in and with women is thus an opportunity that Europe could seize for more sustainable and inclusive growth, including though its new investment programme: InvestEU.

Global Governance of Labour Migration Examined Through a Gender Lens (31 March 2021)

by Prof. Nicola Piper, British Academy Global Professor Fellow, Queen Mary University of London’s School of Law.


While the governance of migration long remained state-centric, over the last two decades there have been increasing efforts to develop mechanisms at the global and regional scales as rising flows of migrants made it clear that greater inter-state cooperation and the involvement of a wider range of actors was necessary. The United Nations and specific International organisations have served as platforms to foster multi-actor cooperation. The growing interest in transnational migration governance coincided with increased awareness of the ‘feminisation’ of migration’ – i.e. that women not only accounted for nearly half of migrants, but also were migrating on their own account as workers, as unequal development constraining possibilities at home coincided with rising demand in feminised sectors such as care work in wealthier countries. The constitution of a global ‘gender equality and women’s empowerment’ norm, in turn, helped to generate awareness of the specific challenges that women migrants face. With noted exceptions, however, the growing literature on global governance of migration has remained largely gender blind. In this presentation, it will be argued that a feminist approach has much in common with critics of the dominant ‘migration management’ project to the detriment of a rights based approach to migration governance, but also raises new questions and claims.

The Ambivalent Parity – The Constitution and Women’s Rights (17 February 2021)

by Prof. Marilisa D’Amico, Professor of Constitutional Law, Vice-rector, University of Milan.


The presentation aims at discussing women’s condition within the Italian Constitutional State. A first section of the presentation will be devoted to the analysis of the Italian constitutional framework on women’s rights with the purpose of disclosing the constitutional rights that are most likely to be at stake when women’s rights under scrutiny. Moving from the principle of equality and non-discrimination, the presentation will investigate the constitutional responses to areas where women are involved, ranging from the family, the labor market, political representation at the national, regional and local level, the right to health and to self-determination in reproductive choices. The second section will look at how the above mentioned constitutional rights have been interpreted and applied over the years. The approach will be a case-by-case analysis, examining each aspect from a national and supranational perspective. The presentation will look at the origin of gender discrimination in ancient times, where women were considered inferior to men and excluded from the public sphere. Other perspectives of analysis will revolve around the relationships between women’s rights and the right to health and to self-determination in reproductive choices within the context of voluntary termination of pregnancy and medically-assisted procreation. The investigation will then go on by examining women’s public participation in the political, economic sphere as well as in the judiciary system and more broadly in the labor market. Other cases will be eventually offered by the multicultural implications surrounding women’s rights, with a specific focus on the space afforded to illiberal practices within the constitutional dimension, and the new frontiers of analysis suggested by violence against women and domestic violence. At the outset, the presentation will aim to unveil the current status of women’s rights in the constitutional system without omitting to take into proper consideration the ineludible contributions of supranational jurisdictions.

Space4Women – Challenges and Opportunities (21 December 2020)

by Aisha Jagirani, Director General, Department of External Relations and Legal Affairs, Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO).


Space4Women is a project of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to promote women’s empowerment in space. To succeed in addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and work towards the 2030 Agenda, it is required to ensure that the benefits of space reach women and girls and that women and girls play an active and equal role in space science, technology, innovation, and exploration. In 2020, UNOOSA established the Space4Women Network which is a mentoring platform that promotes gender equality and gender empowerment in the space sector. Space4Women Network Mentors are selected from leaders and professionals in the space industry and represent a variety of fields and geographic regions. Space4Women encourages women and girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and raises awareness about career opportunities and the importance of gender equality and empowerment in the space sector. The lecture focuses on discussing the situation of women in STEM related careers and education (particularly space science and technology related fields) the challenges faced by them, and the role of intergovernmental organizations such as United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), in prompting and facilitating women in Space.

A Story to Be Told – When the Internet Works for Women and Gender Diverse People (16 December 2020)

by Chenai Chair, Research Manager: Gender and Digital Rights, World Wide Web Foundation.


What we know most about the women and gender diverse people, is that they draw the short story of the internet. We know more needs to be done to close the gender digital divide and get more women online. We do not know enough about the experiences of gender diverse people because our data, when it is there is not disaggregated enough? Or the questions we asked look at marginalised groups more so as passive receivers of change rather than having the capacity, when supported in the ways that work best for them, to shape the internet. In this talk I reflect on the issues around the gendered digital divide when it comes to the internet including, affordability, digital skills, online gender-based violence and surveillance. I will focus on what an internet that works for women and gender diverse people would like through an imaginative lens. I will draw from feminist internet ways of thinking such as data feminism, intersectionality, and Feminist principles of the Internet. I imagine what an internet that works for me and gender diverse people would look like from a research perspective, policy design and implementation as well as technological development responsive to lived realities.

Data Feminism (9 December 2020)

by Prof. Catherine D’Ignazio, Assistant Professor of Urban Science & Planning Director of the Data + Feminism Lab, Department of Urban Studies & Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Prof. Lauren Klein, Associate Professor Department of English and Department of Quantitative Theory and Methods, Emory University.


As data are increasingly mobilized in the service of governments and corporations, their unequal conditions of production, their asymmetrical methods of application, and their unequal effects on both individuals and groups have become increasingly difficult for data scientists and others who rely on data in their work to ignore. But it is precisely this power that makes it worth asking: “Data science by whom? Data science for whom? Data science with whose interests in mind? These are some of the questions that emerge from what we call data feminism, a way of thinking about data science and its communication that is informed by the past several decades of intersectional feminist activism and critical thought. Illustrating data feminism in action, this talk will show how challenges to the male/female binary can help to challenge other hierarchical (and empirically wrong) classification systems; it will explain how an understanding of emotion can expand our ideas about effective data visualization; how the concept of invisible labor can expose the significant human efforts required by our automated systems; and why the data never, ever “speak for themselves.” The goal of this talk, as with the project of data feminism, is to model how scholarship can be transformed into action: how feminist thinking can be operationalized in order to imagine more ethical and equitable data practices.

Talking Gender, Equality and Diversity

Gender Equality, Power and Participation during a Pandemic Crisis (26 May 2020)

(This is simultaneously session 6 of the "Pandemic and the Global Economy" virtual workshop) Chaired by Elisa Fornalé and Georgia Salanti. On the Panel: Zsuzsa Blaskó (European Commission), Alessandra Minello (Università degli Studi di Firenze) and Annalisa Rosselli (University of Rome Tor Vergata)


The current coronavirus outbreak is believed to have a high economic and social impact for women by slowing down efforts to address gender inequality across the world. During the pandemic, few women have been included in the decision-making process or quoted in the media. Only five women were invited to join the 21-members group WHO Emergency Committee on COVID-19. The lack of a gender lens and balance in emergency policy responses may exacerbate existing gender divides and can undermine women’s capabilities and perspectives. This pandemic experience provides an opportunity to move the debate forward by identifying new opportunities (from gender-neutral distribution of care and work time to “unstereotyped” gender roles) and by addressing the urgent need to ensure equal representation of men and women in decision-making processes.

Progress in and challenges to the rights of women to non-discrimination and gender equality (13 May 2020)

by Dr Patricia Schulz, Former Director of the Federal Office for Gender Equality (FOGE) and Swiss Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2011−2018)


The presentation will focus on the international legal framework on women’s human rights (including to non discrimination and gender equality) and will link it to the political objectives contained in the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015. It will show progress made at national level with the adoption of laws conforming to international human rights standards, mainly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its double requirements of formal and substantive equality. It will illustrate challenges towards the implementation of the principles of non-discrimination and gender equality, including insufficient resources, regressive policies, lack of political will and attacks against women human rights defenders. It will also present the role of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in defining international standards and supporting a progressive interpretation of women’s human rights, based on the CEDAW Convention.

The untapped potential of gender equality in the water realm (6 May 2020)

by Mr Laurens Thuy , ‘Gender & Communication' Consultant at the UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)


This lecture explores the intrinsic connection between water and gender, and gives insight into how it is crucial for sustainable development, thereby touching upon the aspect of health and Covid19. It provides an introduction to the UNESCO WWAP ‘Water and Gender Toolkit’, that offers - with its 105 gender-responsive indicators - a methodology for the collection of scarce but much-needed sex-disaggregated data from the field, on a wide range of related topics.

A quantum leap for gender equality: for a better future of work for all (30 March 2020)

by Ms Emanuela Pozzan, Senior Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination Specialist Gender, Equality and Diversity & ILOAIDS and Mr Umberto Cattaneo, Economist, Gender, Equality and Diversity & ILOAIDS Branch (GED & ILOAIDS)


In 1919, the ILO adopted the first Conventions on women and work. A century later, women are a force in the labour market, breaking boundaries that at one time would have been considered impossible. While significant advances have taken place for women at work over the past century, there is no room for complacency. This lecture will introduce the recent ILO’s report that is the culmination of the extensive and often ground-breaking work undertaken in the context of the ILO’s Women at Work Centenary Initiative. The findings and recommendations of the Initiative resonate with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015. The realization of the 2030 Agenda depends on the achievement of gender equality in the world of work. This report highlights key gender gaps and obstacles to decent work for women. This report reinforces the need for a multifaceted approach and provides a direction regarding the measures that can, and should, be taken to seize the opportunities presented by the changing world of work.

(En)gendering EU citizenship: caught between paid work and the market (20 March 2020)

by Dr Sandra Mantu, Assistant Professor, Centre for Migration Law, Radboud University


This lecture examines how gender intersects with EU citizenship and argues that the extent to which EU citizenship rules accommodate migrating women and their experiences should be part of a critical discussion on how EU citizenship changes, recalibrates or reinforces the nexus between paid work and mobility.

Women and risk: rewriting the rules (26 February 2020)

by Dr Mara Catherine Harvey, Leader. Author. Change Maker.


Switzerland has somewhat lost its edge as leading financial market place and has a unique opportunity to win that edge back: Gender Equality. This might sound surprising, but when we size up the economic and financial consequences of gender inequality, the magnitude of the opportunity becomes very palpable indeed. Dr Harvey will investigate pay gaps, savings and investments, financial literacy and financial equality to identify a new narrative that empowers girls and women to embrace earning, negotiating and investing. Without a new narrative, it will be hard to accelerate the path to economic gender equality.

Gender issues in transnational migration studies: recent developments and future prospects (only Powerpoint presentation 19 February 2020)

by Dr Asuncion Fresnoza-Flot, Research Associate FNRS, Université Libre de Bruxelles


What are some of the different analytical lenses adopted to inquire the gender-migration nexus? Examining the literature and scholarly research engines, Dr Fresnoza-Flot aims to uncover that women are more visible than their male counterparts, whereas the LGBTI migrants are attracting increasing attention. As migratory movements have become diversified and complex through time, it is becoming increasingly pressing to understand our perspectives and approaches.

Mainstreaming gender in WHO work (4 December 2019)

by Dr Flavia Bustreo, Former WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women's and Children's Health

Gender equality in the judiciary – with an emphasis on international judiciary (11 December 2019)

by Professor Catherine Kessedjian, professor emerita, University Panthéon-Assas Paris II


Commencing with the question “Why is gender equality so important in rendering justice?”, the presentation shares the historical and current representations of women as judges, mediators and arbitrators. Against this background, the speech evokes discussions on the causes of gender inequality in the international judiciary, as well as on what can be done to change the situation.

The GEM Project is funded under the grant No. 100011_200462/1 by the Swiss National Foundation Research.
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