Women’s Economic Empowerment
Date: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Honourable Minister Oda, President Biggs, Conference Participants,
It is my privilege to say a few closing words on behalf of UN Women. Madame Bachelet is very sorry that she cannot be here at the closing but I assure you that she has been following the Conference closely.
In fact, when we last spoke she asked me three questions. First, what priority areas for policy attention, and what gaps, has the Conference found? Secondly, how can we enhance our partnerships to address this? And thirdly what concrete actions can UN Women take to help make change happen faster?
As Minister Oda outlined on Monday evening, the business case for investment in gender equality and women's economic empowerment has been made and, as we know, is even further reinforced by recent analysis by FAO, by the World Economic Forum, by the World Bank and by McKinsey & Company. And as Madame Bachelet has now said many, many times, investment in economic empowerment is not only the right thing, it is indeed the smart thing to do.
That being said, these past two days we did find areas where clearly more needs to be done. It came out strongly that we need a much more integrated approach to women's economic empowerment - rural and urban; paid and unpaid; the issue of care; quality education; building on traditional knowledge; investing in skills; savings as well as credit; the hybrid forms of entrepreneurship - cooperatives and social enterprises and businesses. We need to transform institutional, legal and policy environments at national and local level to be more conducive to women's economic empowerment, labour rights and growing food security. And as was said so passionately this morning, in these times of crisis we need to seize this opportunity to elaborate a new development model with true gender equality.
We also heard that unpaid work remains a major constraint to women's economic empowerment, but is often assumed wrongly to have little or no effect on most micro and macro-economic activity. However, we know that during periods of economic recession and rising unemployment, increases in women's unpaid work intensifies gender inequalities, restricting women's access to economic opportunities and the full benefits of development.
We also highlighted the need to increase women's economic security by creating the conditions for women to move away from low risk, low return sectors and from survival to asset building and income accumulation.
We intensively discussed that women need access to markets, to finance and to land and other productive resources.
And we also heard a clear call for better sex-disaggregated and time use data, for example on land and asset ownership, taking into account customary land regimes or communal ownership as important routes for women's access to land.
Closing gender data gaps, harmonizing indicators with regard to education, employment and entrepreneurship and building on evidence will help us pursue more analytical work in this area. We heard that politicians want the story and technocrats want the numbers. To do so, we need good qualitative research and real life evidence.
And we also heard so passionately throughout the Conference the need for practical actions on the ground that make a difference now.
It was clear from the take-up discussions we just had that there is a need and appetite for practical evidence and experience that can help advance women's economic empowerment. As just announced by Minister Oda, UN Women is happy to work together with CIDA and in close collaboration with everyone here and all our partners, to help address this through a one-stop Gateway or Platform with up-to-date resources, research, good practice and success stories on women's economic empowerment. And, we very much want to partner with others in supporting some of the inspiring practical examples we heard this week, like the Barefoot College.
This brings me to the critical role of partnerships. We all know that none of us can make it happen alone. Partnerships are essential, not only for greater effectiveness, but for greater impact—combining multiple forces to reinforce this momentum for change that we talked about. This Joint Conference and some of the partnerships presented these past two days, is an example of the power of partnerships.
As Madame Bachelet pointed out in her remarks, we will continue to build partnerships with other UN entities, such as FAO, IFAD, ILO, ITC, UNCDF, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA and UNIDO, - all of whom are playing very active roles in women's economic empowerment and which we all need to maximize according to each computation, as well as deepen our partnerships with CIDA, the World Bank, and OECD and others.
We also need to play our coordinating function by helping UN Country Teams at country level take a more coherent and effective approach at country level to addressing gender equality and women's empowerment, in all its forms.
And last but not least, we need to deepen our partnerships with civil society organizations that work on gender equality. We need to continue to support women's organizations, including women's business networks, on the ground not only with organizational support and capacity development, but also networking opportunities to have greater voice at all levels, as well as to instill greater accountability.
Finally, what will UN Women commit to in order to move from words into more action?
As you know, our first Strategic Plan 2011-2013 was recently endorsed by our Executive Board with economic empowerment of women as one of our priority areas. We now have the opportunity to speed up the pace of change. To this end, UN Women, in partnership with the broader UN system and beyond, including Governments, civil society and bilateral and multilateral partners, will:
- Help facilitate coordination and partnership on gender equality data, including women's economic empowerment indicators, and enhance their use in policy making, programming and monitoring. Convening key national and international players at country level to develop more robust analytical work.
- Support Governments' efforts in developing plans, policies and strategies that recognize women's contribution to growth and social well being and place a special focus on women's economic empowerment
- Work closer with the private sector towards making markets more responsive to women as entrepreneurs and workers.
- Give special emphasis to economically marginalized women as food producers and key development agents
- Support the agency and voice of gender equality advocates and gender-sensitive economists in influencing the formulation, implementation and monitoring of economic policies and programs.
It has been a great two days filled with a lot of ideas, a lot of energy and some very inspiring experiences. While it will take some time for all the rich ideas to coalesce, I was really inspired by all the great recommendations that just came out of the take-up session. On behalf of UN Women I would like to thank all the participants for their energy, passion and innovation - and we agree, we should do this again soon.
As Madame Bachelet said, Minister Oda and Canada have shown exemplary leadership on gender equality, for which we are very grateful, and which has been exemplified again these last 2 days.
As UN Women, we would very much like to thank Minister Oda and everyone at CIDA - Diana, Ellen, Lillian, Tamara, Margaret, Vincent and all the others for your wonderful hospitality, your great substantive commitment and superb organization of such a professional and engaging conference.
And, as UN Women, we stand ready to play our role in helping carry forward the recommendations and passion of this conference to make gender equality and women's economic empowerment, in the words of Madame Bachelet “a shared and living reality for all.