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Press release: Women's economic empowerment is critical to build lasting peace

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For immediate release
Date: 26 September 2013

New York —

At the High-Level segment of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, the UN Peacebuilding Commission, under the chairmanship of the Republic of Croatia, today held a ministerial event on women’s economic empowerment for peacebuilding.

The High-Level ministerial event brought together over 25 Ministers of the Member States of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, and was addressed by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, and Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng, Executive Director of Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange. Calling for the urgent need to prioritize women’s access to employment and productive assets, they reiterated that women’s economic empowerment plays a crucial role in the recovery of war-torn countries and is a key condition for sustained post-conflict recovery, community stability, peace, and nation-building.

Speakers highlighted that women are more likely to spend their income on supporting the well-being of their family and the community. Furthermore, women’s economic empowerment, including the inheritance of land and property, is a key component of ensuring women’s rights in the post-conflict contexts and beyond.

Chairing the event, Vesna Pusić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, said: “The specific issue of women’s economic empowerment in conflict-affected situations is of particular importance not only because of its significant contribution to peacebuilding, but because it is a key component of realizing women’s equal rights.  

“In fragile contexts and in post-conflict situations, the economic empowerment of women secures sustainable and lasting peace. And women’s economic empowerment is a central goal in itself. It requires our priority attention in the dialogues over the global sustainable development agenda,” she added.

Studies show that women’s economic empowerment has not received sufficient attention and investment in the post-conflict period, with women often marginalized from employment opportunities in favour of jobs for men and especially former combatants. Also, women and girls often shoulder a large burden of care for family members and face high levels of violence and insecurity after conflict, including sexual violence and domestic violence. These challenges further restrict women’s economic choices.

“The lack of attention to women’s needs in conflict situations is unacceptable. There is low investment after conflict in jobs for women, land for women, and venture capital for women’s enterprises and this is jeopardizing prospects for peace and stability,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director. “We need more women at the peace table, in donor conferences and in meetings to set post-conflict priorities. The international community needs to ensure that women’s economic empowerment is prioritized in immediate recovery initiatives and long-term peacebuilding.”

Speakers reiterated that women are frequently under-represented in local and national governments and therefore not in a position to influence public decision-making and spending in ways that would support investments in physical and economic security for women. Women’s priorities and needs are rarely taken into account in post-conflict policy and programming – and it is time to change that.

Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng, Executive Director of Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange stressed that “it is time to invest more in women for sustainable peace and development because it is the right thing to do.”

Reiterating that women’s economic empowerment relies on their political empowerment, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support said: “When women occupy a minimum critical mass – 30 per cent at least – of parliament seats, they have a chance to enact legislation that favours women, such as ensuring women have equal access to land and productive assets, that wives and daughters can inherit property, and that women can safely access public spaces and work outside their homes. 

Women's representation and participation is the key to their economic empowerment and to the long-term recovery of post-conflict societies."

Member States of the UN Peacebuilding Commission adopted a declaration recognizing that economic empowerment of women is integral to the effectiveness of post-conflict economic activities, economic growth, and that it leads to improved  recovery policies and sustainable development. The Declaration calls for:

  • Integrating a gender perspective in post-conflict economic recovery decisions;
  • Taking measures to promote sustainable livelihoods and incomes for households headed by women, especially widows, including through financial support and access to productive resources;  
  • Assisting post-conflict countries to create conditions that: generate decent jobs for women, nurture their business skills, encourage them to join the workforce and deliver the financial services that women need, in formal and informal sectors.

Full draft text of the declaration can be viewed here

Press contacts:

UN Women: Hadrien Bonnaud, email: hadrien.bonnaud[at]unwomen.org; Phone : +1 646 781 3531
Mission of the Republic of Croatia: Zoran Joković, email: Zoran.Jokovic[at]mvep.hr
UN Peacebuilding Support Office: Roshan Khadivi, email: khadivi[at]un.org

Watch an archived version of the webcast here: