Opening Remarks by John Hendra at the “Launch of the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment”


Opening Remarks by John Hendra, Assistant Secretary General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Policy and Programme, at the UN Women Side Event “Launch of the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment”. 6 March 2013

Ambassador, distinguished panelists, Minister, ladies and gentlemen;

I’m very pleased to welcome all of you here today. Thank you for your interest in the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

Let me first introduce our speakers for this afternoon’s event: Ambassador Rischynski, Permanent Representative of Canada; Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, of The New School, New York; Gisèle Yitamben, President of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs, Cameroon; Josephine Okot, Managing Director of Victoria Seeds Limited; Yana Rodgers, President-Elect of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) and Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Trent University, Canada. A very warm welcome to you all!

UN Women is very pleased to be launching the Knowledge Gateway for women’s economic empowerment during the 57th session of CSW. As our speakers will no doubt shortly elaborate, women’s economic empowerment is a prerequisite for development, realization of human rights and achievement of gender equality.

There can be no equality or justice when over 50 per cent of the world’s population lacks equal access to resources, assets and opportunities. As we know, while four out of ten workers around the world are women half of them are engaged in vulnerable employment, trapped in insecure jobs, and often outside the purview of labour laws, and social protection policies.

Women continue to be paid around 70 to 90 per cent less than men, for the same work, or work of equal value. They are often severely under-represented in senior roles, management positions and on boards. And they continue to be responsible for the bulk of unpaid work – including cooking, cleaning and childcare.

What’s more, as the World Bank has shown, over 100 countries still impose legal differences between women and men in areas such as mobility, ability to sign contracts, managing property and interacting with public authorities and the private sector. And in many countries women still have unequal rights to land, productive assets and inheritance.

Hard times only exacerbate these gender inequalities. The global economic crisis and ongoing fiscal constraints have resulted in a shrinking job market, increased unemployment and a significant increase in the burden of unpaid care predominantly shouldered by women. Furthermore, austerity measures adopted by many governments have had a disproportionate impact on women, including as a result of cut-backs to social protection and social services.

At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence that women’s economic empowerment is good for societies and for development. According to Booz Consulting, there are a billion women with the potential to contribute more fully to their national economies. And reducing barriers to female labour force participation would increase GDP by 9 per cent in the US and 13 per cent in the Eurozone.

But enabling conditions need to be in place for this to happen. Recent research commissioned by UN Women found that equal access to land and other assets; a social protection system that provides a basic floor of services and support; associative networks of women that enable them to access information and markets; and a supportive regulatory environment that promotes women’s participation are among key enabling factors that lead to women’s economic empowerment.

It’s precisely in order to address these challenges, share knowledge and experience about successful interventions, and to connect different actors and stakeholders across sectors, that UN Women and the Government of Canada have come together to develop a one-stop portal to promote women’s economic empowerment: the Knowledge Gateway. This initiative began at the CIDA-UN Women Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment in late 2011, where CIDA and UN Women committed to develop a web portal.

The aim of the Knowledge Gateway is to promote improvements in women’s lives and communities, by helping them to build their businesses, farms and enterprises, successfully market their products and services, and improve their working conditions and pay.

We know that great demand is out there. Under UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, we are currently analyzing 1,200 applications from 57 countries, for funding to promote women’s economic empowerment. Vocational and livelihood training, training on gender mainstreaming and business management, were among the support most frequently requested. This is in line with the online survey we conducted to better understand the needs of potential Knowledge Gateway users, which attracted 1,600 responses from all over the world.

The Knowledge Gateway will adopt three key strategies to meet this demand.

First, it will support learning about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to promoting women’s economic empowerment. The Gateway’s Knowledge Library will give members access to cutting edge research and up-to-date data and knowledge on policy and programming, lessons learned, and good practice.

Second, it will allow members to discuss and share ideas, experiences and knowledge, based on their efforts to make a difference in women’s lives. The Gateway will help to build bridges and connections across countries and stakeholders – including governments, civil society, women entrepreneurs, and women workers – breaking down silos by providing Knowledge Circles – multi-stakeholder communities of practice.

Third, it will facilitate connections between individuals. Members will be able to search the Knowledge Network to connect with others with specific interests or areas of expertise.

It’s our hope that the Knowledge Gateway will enable connections and build networks between different groups of women – such as rural women and women entrepreneurs – and policy-makers, parliamentarians, development workers, NGOs, farmers and trade organizations, and workers’ and employers’ groups.

Today we will showcase the prototype for the Knowledge Gateway. As a demand driven portal, the Knowledge Gateway depends on the interest and use of all of you. We look forward to hearing your feedback today, and in future as you begin to engage with the platform.

Thank you.