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Economic Empowerment for Women: The Time is Now

Seva President
13 Apr 2016


UN Secretary General sets up High level Panel

A Glass Ceiling above and a Sticky Floor Below

Women in all countries are a crucial part of the economy and yet are subject to Gender Economic Gaps, which cause lower earnings, less productivity, less access to resources. Women face a glass ceiling above and a sticky floor below!

According the a study undertaken by the International Monetary Fund, gender wage gaps directly contribute to income inequality, and higher gaps in labor force participation rates between men and women result in inequality of earnings between sexes. Women are more likely to work in the informal economy, in which earnings are lower, which widens the gender earnings gap and exacerbates income inequality. And, inequality of opportunities, such as unequal access to education, health services, and finance are prevalent between men and women, and are strongly associated with income inequality. The study goes on to say that lack of gender equity imposes large economic costs as it hampers productivity and weighs on growth.

It is precisely to address this economic inequality that the UN Secretary-General set up the High level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment. In his speech to the inaugural panel, he said that the panel was set up to place women’s economic empowerment at the top of the global agenda and elevate the status of women, especially poor women. He affirmed that the panel is strategically positioned to address three objectives: demonstrating high-level leadership and commitment; setting clear, action-oriented priorities to accelerate women’s economic empowerment; and, demonstrating how governments, business and civil society can work together for results.

The Panel is Co-chaired by Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, President of Costa Rica and Simona Scarpeleggia, CEO, IKEA. The panel members include representatives of Government, business and the social sector.

The Social Development goals have recognized the need for a fair place for women in the economy.

Target for Goal 5–Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws

Target for Goal 8 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
And: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment

The Panel has identified a six issues on which it will work:

  1. Legal Barriers which lead to economic gender gap
  2. Paid and unpaid Care work
  3. The gap in Wages
  4. The importance of the Informal economy
  5. Financial and digital inclusion and exclusion
  6. Making Women-owned enterprises more productive

The Draft Panel Report will be presented at the September UN General Assembly meeting by the Secretary General. The target audience for the report is broad, including civil society leaders and decision-makers from the public and private sectors. The goals for this report are the following:

  • Feasible and action-oriented: The report should “inform and inspire” action based on what has proven to work in a range of different contexts, with emphasis on the Global South.
  • Accessibility and flexibility: The report should be accessible to a wide audience of actors, and avoid a prescribed “one size fits all” approach.
  • Inspiring and impactful: This report should not re-state existing research or conclusions, but should propose new action items that are grounded in existing work, and that are inspiring and engaging to the audience

Renana Jhabvala,

President, SEWA Bharat

Member, UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Women’s Economic Empowerment

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