UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous has made her first official visit to Germany to advance the global gender equality agenda and to highlight the critical need to support women’s roles in the care economy.
Ms. Bahous met German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Svenja Schulze in Berlin to discuss the importance of the ongoing support for women and girls against the backdrop of pressing global challenges including the war in Ukraine, the aftermath of COVID-19, crisis in Afghanistan and the growing impacts of climate change.
At the G7 Care Conference on 7 April – jointly hosted by Germany, UN Women and ILO, Ms. Bahous joined global delegates to stress the urgent issue of paid and unpaid care work in international development, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the urgency of the issue into sharp focus. She called for global investments in high quality, affordable care services and for policies that recognize, reduce, and redistribute women's and girls' unpaid care and domestic work; and that represent and reward paid care workers.
During her visit, Executive Director Bahous also had the opportunity to learn more about Germany’s recently adopted Feminist Development Policy and the opportunities it opens up for women globally. She recognized that investment in gender equality has a multiplier effect and emphasized the opportunities for increased prosperity and security when women play their full role in economies and societies, saying, “When we foster women’s rights, increase gender equality, and advance women’s leadership everyone gains. Yet, women’s voices are rarely included when it comes to solving some of the most pressing global challenges. They must be fully present wherever there are decisions being made that affect their lives, whether that is in humanitarian and development response, political representation, in business, or elsewhere”.
Minister Schulze expressed her support for an intensified global focus on advancing gender equality noting that, “Gender equality is a basic prerequisite for sustainable development. It is not something any one country can achieve on its own. Instead, it demands strong partnerships and international alliances, such as we have with the G7 and UN Women at international level. Feminist development policy means joining together to do everything in our power to achieve equal rights and equal participation for all, to provide resources and to find tangible ways of empowering women and girls.”
During their meetings this week, Executive Director Bahous and Minister Schulze emphasized their shared commitment to leading efforts to the inclusion of gender equality approaches in development cooperation. Ms. Bahous and Minister Schulze also reiterated their commitment to ensuring women’s full participation in decision-making at all levels, including on issues relating to climate change, a position reaffirmed at the recently concluded 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, (CSW66).
The visit was also an occasion for UN Women Executive Director to acknowledge and commend the longstanding support that the people and governments of Germany have provided to UN Women since its creation, over a decade ago
Executive Director Bahous updated Minister Schulze on UN Women’s response to the war in Ukraine where UN Women continues to prioritize the needs of women and girls working in close cooperation with women’s civil society organizations and other partners. Through such partnerships, UN Women has identified and elevated women’s most immediate needs: safety; access to shelters; necessities such as food, medicine, and hygiene products, accommodation, water and access to power and connectivity; and access to livelihoods, including the ability to work and earn an income. The organization is also providing experts to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council. These experts are equipped with the skills and experience to investigate sexual violence, abuse and exploitation of women and girls in the context of war.
Support to the women of Afghanistan is another area of shared priorities for UN Women and the German Government and Ms. Bahous and Minister Schulze reinforced the call for the international community to come together and centre its response closely on the voices and needs of all the Afghan people who are affected by the crisis – particularly women, girls and minority groups.