Date: 16 June 2016
(Brussels) Women’s and girls’ economic empowerment sets a direct path towards achieving gender equality and reaching new global targets for sustainable development. But it will demand concerted action and innovation across sectors—from governments and international organisations to civil society and the private sector.
That was the message delivered at this year’s European Development Days (15-16 June), Europe's leading forum on development and international cooperation, during the high-level panel on “Building win-win partnerships for women’s and girls’ economic empowerment” on 16 June.
“Women’s and girls’ empowerment is probably the most important part of sustainability as they are half the world’s population,” said Arup Banerji, Regional Director for EU Countries, Europe and Central Asia at The World Bank Group.
Girls and women remain disproportionately vulnerable to poverty, discrimination, and exploitation. Gender discrimination often means that girls and women end up in unprotected, informal, or low-wage jobs; it curtails their access to financial resources and control and ownership of property; and it limits their participation in shaping economic and social policies. And because girls and women perform the bulk of unpaid care and other work, their opportunities are constrained.
“We have been addressing symptoms for years but not root causes” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International. “We must tackle basic discriminatory social norms that create barriers to girls’ and women’s economic empowerment.”
Building win-win partnerships
Drawing on approaches captured by the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, strategies from the World Bank, UNIDO, UN Women, and Plan International as well as the EU Action Plan on Gender Equality in External Relations, participants in the panel explored how to create win-win partnerships to realise targets pertaining to girls' and women's economic empowerment in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Gender inequality has many facets and the causes are historically embedded within laws and cultures, so we need a variety of different actors and partnerships from across the board to get involved in challenging the multiple discriminations faced by women and girls around the world,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
“In the MENA region the woman is the family’s pillar,” said Asmaa Morine Azzouzi, President of the Women’s association of entrepreneurs in Morocco. “A woman today should start imposing her work and business to her family, to do so we need more incentives from both the private and public sector to emancipate women.”
The private sector, accounting for 90 percent of jobs in low- and middle-income economies, will have a vital role to play in achieving economic empowerment for women and girls. In this context, it is crucial for non-profit organisations to understand the criteria for an effective and mutually beneficial partnership.
“What is key is to create a situation based on a relationship of trust and transparency, and that the partnership is based on true shared values,” said Ms. Albrectsen.
Putting words into action: Delivering on the SDGs
Under the title “Sustainable Development Goals in Action,” this year’s European Development Days are all about implementation, and as highlighted by participants during the panel, women’s and girls’ economic empowerment is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development.
“When we talk about leaving no one behind, the one group that is easy to identify in every country is women and girls” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “If you don’t know where to start with the implementation of the SDGs, start with women and girls.”
But how can we ensure that all actors keep their promises to the world’s women and girls? Panelists agreed that collecting more and better data on issues affecting women and girls around the world will play a crucial role in ensuring that the 2030 Agenda delivers for them. “What we don’t know we can’t solve,” said Mr. Banerji.
One key solution to ensure we understand what girls and women face and need is to let them have a say. Ayesha Durrani, a young leader and business owner from Pakistan said: “If women and girls don’t have a say, progress won’t happen.”
“We need to give girls themselves a voice to challenge basic social norms and we need to stand by them,” Ms. Albrectsen added.
About the European Development Days:
The European Development Days, organised annually by the European Commission, is Europe’s leading forum on development and international cooperation. The forum brings the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Now in its tenth year the forum will take place on 15-16 June 2016 in Brussels under the theme: “Sustainable Development Goals in Action: Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future”, with a focus on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
About the Gender High Level Panel:
Women’s and girls’ economic empowerment is a critical element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achieving this will require all actors to move beyond ‘business as usual’ and employ new ways of thinking and doing. Building on the general agreement that a variety of multi-stakeholder partnerships will be key to achieve women's and girls' economic empowerment and drawing on approaches captured in the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) and strategies from the World Bank, UNIDO, UN Women, and Plan International, as well as the EU Action Plan on Gender Equality in External Relations, the high level panel “Building win-win partnerships for women’s and girls’ economic empowerment” explored how to create win-win partnerships between the UN, civil society, governmental actors and the private sector to realise targets in the 2030 Agenda pertaining to girls’ and women’s economic empowerment. The panel was co-organised by The World Bank Group, UN Women, UNIDO and Plan International.
Sarah Casteran | Brussels | email@example.com | office +32 2 504 60 56