Speech: “Transformative financing is an imperative”—Lakshmi Puri

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the ‘How to do Good’ Tour on 8 May in New York.

Date: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Distinguished speakers,
Invited guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening. Let me start by saying thank you to the team at the Philanthropy Age, and especially to Leonard, for being a passionate animator par excellence of the ‘Do Good’ movement, which brings together the private sector and philanthropic community in support of the most worthwhile causes for humanity.

Today I would particularly like to pay tribute to them for teaming up with UN Women and joining that movement with the global solidarity movement for gender equality, women’s empowerment and women's human rights—The Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality Movement—which is the best, biggest and most rewarding of all ‘do good’ projects for humanity.

When you invest in women and girls, it has a force multiplier effect on all other economic, social, environmental, peace, and humanitarian projects. You empower whole families, communities, societies, and countries, across generations.

The world continues to face multiple challenges that cry out for our collective response, including conflicts and terrorism, poverty and famines, unprecedented desperate migration and refugee flows, humanitarian crisis, discrimination and inequality in all forms that require significant investment and ‘women power’ to prevent and solve.

It is important to address the disproportionate and differential impacts and crucial roles of women and girls in addressing these trials and ensuring the global public goods of peace, security, human rights for all and the achievement of sustainable development.

The question then lies: Why does financing gender equality matter?

It matters for health. For every USD 1 spent in 74 high-burden countries the society will gain almost USD 9 in the form of economic and social benefits due to lower morbidity and mortality by 2035.

It matters for education. Investing in advancing girls’ education would lead to lifetime earnings of today’s girls reaching up to 68 per cent of annual GDP.

It matters for the economy. Closing the credit gap for women-owned small and medium enterprises by 2020, would lead to incomes per capita around 12 per cent higher on average by 2030. Additionally, if the employment participation gap and the wage gap between women and men were closed, there would be an increased global value of USD 17 trillion added to the economy. Power of parity study by Mckinsey in the economy, the GDP of 95 countries would increase by 28 trillion by 2025.

It matters for food security. Closing the gap in access to resources between men and women could increase agricultural output in developing world, on average, by 2.5 per cent to 4 per cent which translates to more food for the hungry.

It matters for everyone. In the developing world, for every USD 1 given to a woman, 90 per cent will go to her family, whereas for men the figure is 40 per cent. 

Yet, despite these known benefits for women, we still see a chronic underinvestment which has hampered progress on women’s rights and sustainable development overall.

Financing gaps for implementing national action plans on gender equality are, in some countries, as high as 90 per cent and of 13 countries with available information, not one invested more than 0.4 per centof GDP in national women’s machineries, constraining their ability to act on their critical mandate

You and me will not allow this to continue anymore because the cost of inaction is high. If we are not harnessing the full potential of all women and girls, we have doing our world a severe injustice.

In order to ‘do good’ and ensure a better world for all women and girls, we need a conscience revolution, a commitment to action and transformative investment.

We need to invest in changing constitutional laws and policies, that discriminate and perpetuate inequality and violence against women. We need to invest in policies that put forth special measures that will enable women and girls to make up for the historic inequality, level the playing field and go forward.

We need investment to support programs for prevention, protection, and provision of multi-sectoral services for survivors of gender-based violence and to combat harmful practices such as child marriages and Female Genital Mutilation.

We need investment to ensure that women’s voice, participation, and leadership in decision-making at all levels of government and private sector are a reality.

That women are able to have equal access of ownership and control over productive resources and assets thus fully enabling their true empowerment, rights and economic independence.

We need investment in the care economy, so that women’s burden of unpaid care and domestic work is valued, redistributed and provided for, and that they can exercise their right to decent work and productive and full employment.

Last, but not least, is investment in ensuring universal access of women and girls to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

This is what the international community has agreed through the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, which also urges you to target your actions and significantly increased resources to close the gender gap, and to leave no one behind- reaching the farthest first.

Therefore, transformative financing is an imperative.

UN Women, together with several Member States, launched the Addis Ababa Action Plan on Transformative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment related commitments. 

We support national governments on transformative financing to mobilize maximum available resources to support implementation of their SDG-based national action plans on gender equality and women’s empowerment. From all available sources—domestic, international and traditional and innovative- both public and private.

Justice demands that the needs of the most marginalized and distressed women and girls are met, and that they are protected from violence, but also, that all women and girls everywhere are empowered and enabled to attain their full potential.

However, governments cannot fulfill their commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment alone. Business and philanthropy sectors have an active, central role to play in “transforming our world” to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment under the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ladies and gentlemen, as “do gooders” you must believe in the essential value of, and have a critical stake in, the most important public good of our times - the GEWE project. You have the rare privilege and duty to invest in global solidarity around its achievement and to make up for the neglect of our forebears and to reap its exponential benefits.

UN Women is ready to be your partner of choice. I know that each of you masters of the universe are here because you believe in what Thoreau urged us to be and do: “Be not simply good, be good for something”. And I want to assure you that you can't find a better something to be good for and to do good than the gender equality project. The greatest good is giving to, for, and with women, thereby benefiting generations and achieving equality for all women and girls. So be a Planet 50-50 champion and vow to invest in it!

Thank you.