Economies that work for women, work for everyone

Date: Monday, January 22, 2018

The future we want rests on freeing women’s power and potential.

The numbers tell a compelling story: If women played an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as US$28 trillion, or 26 per cent, could be added to the global annual Gross Domestic Product by 2025.

Women are half the world’s potential, but harnessing that will require access to decent, good-quality paid work and measures such as, adequate parental leave, flexible work hours, gender-sensitive policies and regulations that support an enabling environment for women to work and thrive, on equal footing as their male counterparts.

As world leaders meet in Davos for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting from 23 – 26 January, we aspire for a “Shared Future” that works for women as well as men. From equal pay to reducing women’s unpaid work, making workplaces free of sexual harassment and investing in women’s access to digital and green economies, here are some ways UN Women is working for and with women in the changing world of work.

Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace in Cambodia

Chhun Srey Sros, 24, lives in Sangkat Chaom Chao and works in a Cambodian factory where UN Trust Fund and its partner, CARE, have developed and distributed educational materials and a sexual harassment policy for the work place. Photo: UN Women/Charles Fox
Chhun Srey Sros, 24, lives in Sangkat Chaom Chao and works in a Cambodian factory where UN Trust Fund and its partner, CARE, have developed and distributed educational materials and a sexual harassment policy for the work place. Photo: UN Women/Charles Fox<

At least 114 countries now have laws or some form of legal framework to protect women against sexual harassment at workplaces. But we know that sexual harassment continues to limit women’s freedom, choice and rights, because many of the laws and regulations remain in the books, businesses often do not have policies in place and many women and men are not even aware of the laws. We know that for far too long, sexual harassment has been normalized, trivialized and condoned.

Meet Chhun Srey Sros, a 24-year-old garment factory worker in Cambodia,  who is speaking out against harassment, together with her colleagues.

The factory in Sangkat Chaom Chao where Chhun works is at the forefront of fighting sexual harassment in the work place. A UN Trust Fund the End Violence against Women project on sexual harassment helped create a sexual harassment campaign in the factory, and the factory has now adopted a policy that encourages workers to report harassment and ensures that actions would be taken against the perpetrators.

“Preventing sexual harassment means to empower women at the workplace. When sexual harassment takes place, it doesn’t only affect an individual, it affects at a collective level,” says Chhun. “Since the project on sexual harassment started, I have learnt a lot. I understood how we can stop sexual harassment by standing together.”

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Changing care laws in Uruguay

Soledad Rotella and daughter Kiara at the Child and Family Care Center of Tres Ombúes, a neighborhood northwest of Montevideo. Photo: UN Women/Agostina Ramponi
Soledad Rotella and daughter Kiara at the Child and Family Care Center of Tres Ombúes, a neighborhood northwest of Montevideo. Photo: UN Women/Agostina Ramponi

In 2015 Uruguay’s Parliament adopted the Care Act (No. 19,353), which guarentees the right to receive care to all children, persons with disability and elderly persons. The government not only provides care services, but also guarantees the quality of that care.

Now, since quality and free day care is available, women like Soledad Rotella can get full time jobs without risking the well-being of their children.

Soledad has a 21-year-old son and two daughters aged 20 and 18 years. And then there is Kiara—she is only two years old.

In most parts of the world, women do the vast majority of the unpaid work, such as child care, cooking, cleaning and farming—the work that is essential for households and economies to function, and yet under-valued. We asked UN Women expert Shahra Razavi, what is real value of unpaid work?

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Unlocking tech industry opportunities in Jordan

Shurouq Al Hamaideh. Photo: UN Women/Christopher Herwig
Shurouq Al Hamaideh. Photo: UN Women/Christopher Herwig

The existing gaps women face in accessing digital training, economic resources and decision-making, along with other barriers, mean that women are being left out of the fastest growing industries.

Globally, there is a 12 per cent gender gap in internet use; in the world’s least developed countries, the gap widens to 31 per cent. In Jordan, 22-year-old Shurouq Al Hamaideh started a social business in order to teach computer programming to teenagers. Barely three months into the business, more than 30 young people, including girls, had already completed the course.

“We wanted to create an enabling environment for girls and young women to learn technology near their homes, since they do not have a lot of mobility without the consent of their parents or husband,” Shurouq says. “Children are the future of the country, and if girls are empowered, as much as boys, to learn and pursue careers in technology, we can make a lot of progress.”

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Powering up women’s income in Côte d'Ivoire 

Blah Pauline Ninhouet during a soap-cutting exercise with UN Women expert, Mame Khary Diene Expert in a production workshop for the preparations of the International Exhibition of Agriculture in Abidjan. Photo: UN Women/Alpha Ba
Blah Pauline Ninhouet during a soap-cutting exercise with UN Women expert, Mame Khary Diene Expert in a production workshop for the preparations of the International Exhibition of Agriculture in Abidjan. Photo: UN Women/Alpha Ba

These days, Blah Pauline Ninhouet from Korhogo, in rural Côte d'Ivoire, is dreaming big. She plans to start her own business, selling organic shea butter cosmetics.

Côte d'Ivoire is the fifth largest producer of shea butter, extracted from the nuts of the African shea tree and widely used in cosmetics. Producing shea butter is largely seen as women’s job, and it’s a hard job.

Not long ago, Ninhouet struggled to make ends meet as she used the traditional, labour-intensive method of producing shea butter. The resulting product didn’t meet international standards and she had little to show for her backbreaking labour. Rising deforestation in the area also poses a major threat to the shea sector.

A joint programme by UN Women and the Government of Côte d'Ivoire programme is providing a climate-smart solution to reducing deforestation, while bolstering rural women’s economic empowerment.

Since October 2017, the programme has trained 300 women from various cooperatives, like Ninhouet, in better manufacturing practices so that the shea products meet competitive standards. It also provides financing and market access for women in the shea sector.

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Photo credit: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran