The Knowledge Gateway: "A one-stop digital service platform and a global community for women to become economic citizens"

Remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Launch of the Knowledge Gateway for women's economic empowerment, New York, 23 September 2013.

Date : 23 September 2013

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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m delighted to welcome you, just as I’m delighted to be with you. Thank you so much for coming out for the launch of the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

The Knowledge Gateway has been made possible through a generous contribution by the Government of Canada, represented here today by Minister Lynne Yelich. Let us give a round of applause to Canada!

You can find the Gateway at empowerwomen.org, and we are very proud of that name. Empower women! 

The idea of the Knowledge Gateway was born at the 2011 Global Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Ottawa. There, UN Women and the Government of Canada agreed to create a dynamic online platform to advance women’s economic empowerment. 

Expanding economic opportunities for women is one of my top priorities at UN Women.

And the timing is clearly right.

Growing evidence suggests that investing in women’s economic empowerment is a direct path toward gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Studies show that breaking down barriers to gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship would help make better use of everyone’s skills and create new sources of economic growth.

When everyone – both women and men – contribute on an equal footing, our communities and nations benefit through social cohesion, economic security, peace and prosperity. And studies show that in such settings both violence against women and girls, and women’s vulnerability to discrimination, are reduced.

This is what we all want, but we have a long road to travel, don’t we?

Today women comprise 45 per cent of the global labour force and 70 per cent of adults who live in poverty. Today, 4 in 10 workers around the world are women, but half are engaged in vulnerable employment and often trapped in insecure jobs beyond the reach of labour laws. And today, more than 100 countries continue to impose legal differences between women and men in terms of a woman’s ability to sign a contract, travel abroad, manage property, and interact with public and private authorities. These barriers hurt not only women and their families; they hold back societies and economies.

To address and overcome these challenges we must join forces and act together to promote women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

How do we get there? What steps do we take to enhance the economic empowerment of women that we all desire? 

We believe the Knowledge Gateway holds some of those answers.

The Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment provides women with a one-stop digital service platform and a global community for women to become economic citizens. Through the Gateway, women can connect with each other, identify opportunities, share experiences and expertise, discuss business ideas and take advantage of learning opportunities. In line with UN Women’s global mandate, empowerwomen.org aims to engage individuals from both developing and developed countries, from large international organizations to small grassroots networks.

Think of empowerwomen.org as a mini-search engine – such as Bing or Google – focused solely on knowledge about expanding women’s economic opportunities. 

The key components of the Knowledge Gateway include first, a Knowledge Library. This provides access to cutting-edge research, information, data and knowledge on successful policies and programs, lessons learned and best practices. Second, a Knowledge Network. This allows members to search by areas of interest and expertise to foster connection and communication. Third, Knowledge Circles. These promote peer exchange, discussions, mentoring and support. And finally, the Gateway includes a Learning Center. This helps women to prepare a business plan, implement a marketing strategy, win a job, negotiate a salary and manage stress in the process.

As we will hear, Microsoft is offering free IT courses in the Learning Center – skills needed not only to apply for jobs online, but to accomplish work in almost all job settings, whether you’re the owner or the employee. In addition, we are working with Dress for Success, which shares excellent tips at empowerwomen.org on getting and progressing in a job. 

I am also very happy to announce that the Knowledge Gateway is the first UN Women initiative to be showcased on the excellent Catapult crowd-funding initiative. This initiative with Chime for Change raises awareness and funds to support women’s and girls’ empowerment. 

Having said all this, I am well aware that the Knowledge Gateway won’t help you unless you can access it. So we are working closely with telecentres and Internet cafes around the globe to offer access to women who have no computer or Internet service of their own. 

Key partners are needed to make the Gateway a success. Happily, we have some excellent partners for whom we are very grateful. These include the World Bank, Microsoft, the Coca Cola Company’s 5-by-20 Initiative, as well as the World Economic Forum, to name a few. All of them already have their own spaces up on empowerwomen.org

All in all, our partners range from UN organizations to private sector companies to networks of feminist economists, business schools and researchers, all focused on sharing information to empower women. One of our partners is the Equal Futures Partnership initiative of the United States Government to advance women’s political leadership and economic empowerment.
More partners are joining us every day, and we encourage you to think about being one of them.

Let me close with these thoughts: Women around the world continue to be held back by outdated laws, policies and centuries of discrimination. But I, like you, believe that we have reached a point in time when families want their daughters to have the same opportunities as their sons. Every human being wants to be treated in a fair and equal manner. I believe this is true. And so, in every way – big and small – that we can, we must work towards the realization of justice, equality and economic opportunities for women around the world.

We believe the Knowledge Gateway will be part of doing just that.

Thank you so much for your kind attention. 

Right now, we will watch a brief video on the Knowledge Gateway. And then, we will see a live demo of it. 

I look forward to listening to what you have to say about how we might make this platform more meaningful and helpful going forward. Thank you again. 

Watch an archived version of this speech here.