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Gender equality and women's empowerment

In the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Member States have committed to promoting and ensuring gender equality. The Addis Agenda's strong focus on gender is anchored in its first paragraph, which commits to ensure gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, and is reflected in gender-specific commitments throughout the seven action areas of the Addis Agenda.

Tracking public allocations for gender equality

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda underlines the importance of achieving greater transparency and accountability on financing gender equality and women’s empowerment through gender responsive budgeting and tracking. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits the development community to working “for a significant increase in investments to close the gender gap.” In line with these commitments, the creation and application of well-articulated and inclusive budget tracking systems is essential to ensure that resources are mobilised and allocated effectively to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) Monitoring Framework includes an indicator that allows to identify the proportion of countries that track public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment and that make the information public (Indicator 8 of the GPEDC Monitoring Framework). The 2016 Progress Report of the GPEDC shows that 58 countries, from a total of 81 that participated in the 2016 Second Monitoring Round, reported having a tracking system in place. The report indicates that 38 of those countries also make the information public. UN Women, together with the OECD and UNDP, are developing the methodology to track Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 5.c.1: “Proportion of countries with systems to track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment,” taking as its basis Indicator 8 of the GPEDC Monitoring Framework.

Aid activities targeting gender equality

The OECD DAC Gender Equality Policy Marker tracks bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. As part of the annual reporting of their aid activities to the DAC, DAC members are required to indicate whether each aid activity targets gender equality as a policy objective according to a three-point scoring system. The data generated by the marker provides a global estimate of DAC members’ aid in support of gender equality annually and a breakdown by each DAC member.

Aid activities targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment totaled around $40 billion in 2015. There is an upward trend in gender focused aid since the adoption of the DAC gender marker.

Trade and gender equality

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires evidence-based analysis and integrated and coordinated policy support in several areas of expertise of UNCTAD, including gender equality. The long-standing experience of UNCTAD in providing evidence-based analysis and policy support, technical cooperation and multi-stakeholder dialogue is a powerful instrument to help ensure effective implementation and monitoring of a comprehensive and integrated approach to the 2030 Agenda and the AAAA. Indeed, in addition to securing the financial resources required to bridge the investment gap identified in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the task ahead is to move from decisions to actions and put in place an appropriate monitoring and review system.

The means of implementation commitments establish a link between on the one hand women's access to productive resources, the implementation of gender equality and non-discriminatory legislation and the creation of gender-sensitive development strategies, and on the other the goals of ending poverty, achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Trade policy has an important role in fostering all the above mentioned economic and social objectives.

In order to materialize this, at the national level, countries will have to develop indicators to monitor if trade is playing a positive role towards women's economic empowerment and gender equality, and capture the various dimensions of inequality that women face in the economic sphere and track progress made on them. Such additional elements could include:

  • female share of seasonal export jobs;
  • gender wage gaps, work conditions and social benefits in the export sector relative to the domestic sector;
  • female under-employment rate in import-competing sectors;
  • female share of high skilled and managerial jobs in export-oriented sectors;
  • female share of permanent jobs in export-oriented sectors;
  • coverage of unemployment insurance and coverage of cash transfer programmes for unemployed and under-employed population;
  • female share of landholding and immovable propriety;
  • female participation rate in technical and vocational training programmes (eg, extension services) and in government support programmes (eg, credit);
  • female use rate of storage, drying and processing facilities;
  • female rural employment in non-farm activities.

One such measurement effort is the ITC survey analysis across 20 countries (in five regions of the World). Its results, for example, reveal that women (as managers, owners and employees) are particularly involved into the clothing and textile sectors, which represents the main source of processed and higher value exports for LDCs and developing countries.

The results of the survey also show that women owned exporter firms are on average smaller than male owned firms. Cultural and regulatory barriers that explain why women-owned businesses are on average smaller than male-owned business include time constraints due to unpaid family care workload; limited access to productive resources like finance and land; and limited access to information and networks. Due to their relative small size, women-owned firms also suffer disproportionally from trade-related fixed costs, such as non-tariff measures.


Decision-making positions in parliaments

Women are underrepresented in decision-making positions in parliament, although there is some evidence of recent improvement: there has been an increase from 13 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2016 in the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments worldwide between 2000 to 2016. Gender parity in parliamentary representation is still far from being realized. Without representation at this level, it is difficult for women to influence policy. A strong and vibrant democracy is possible only when parliament is fully inclusive of the population it represents. Parliaments cannot consider themselves inclusive, however, until they can boast the full participation of women. This is not just about women's right to equality and their contribution to the conduct of public affairs, but also about using women's resources and potential to determine political and development priorities that benefit societies and the global community.

Participation in firm ownership and management

Benchmarking female participation in firm ownership, management, and the workforce is important to achieving gender equality promotion and empowerment of women. With the latest data, it is possible to estimate that, worldwide, the percent of firms with majority female ownership is of 13.7 (as of 2015); the percent of firms with a female top manager is 18.8 (as of 2009); and the percent of firms with female participation in ownership is 35.1 (as of 2011). The results are based on surveys of more than 125,000 firms in businesses in 139 countries. The survey results show that there is still ample room for increasing women’s economic empowerment via fostering its participation as managers and as owners of businesses.

Financial inclusion

There is a significant gender gap in account ownership, savings, credit, and payments behavior. In 2014, 57.4 percent of women worldwide had an account, compared to 64 per cent of men. In 2011, 46.8 per cent of women and 54.5 per cent of men had an account. This means that globally, there is a persistent 7 percentage point gender gap in account ownership. This suggest the importance of fostering financial inclusion in order to allow women to have better investment opportunities and risk management.

New developments

High-Level Panel (HLP) for Women’s Economic Empowerment

The HLP for Women’s Economic Empowerment presented its first findings to the UN Secretary-General. The HLP aims at placing women’s economic empowerment at the top of the global agenda to accelerate progress under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report draws attention to the challenges faced by the most disadvantaged women, brings informal work from the margins to the mainstream, highlights how discriminatory laws limit choice and sheds light on the centrality of unpaid work and care, which is one of the most pervasive and significant barriers to women’s economic empowerment. The report highlights seven primary drivers to unlock the potential of women to fully participate in the economy and achieve financial independence: tackling adverse norms and promoting positive role models; ensuring legal protections and reforming discriminatory laws and regulations; recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid work and care; building digital, financial and property assets; changing corporate culture and practice, improving public sector practices in employment and procurement, and strengthening visibility, collective voice and representation. The HLP brings together a diverse group of stakeholders including governments, private sector, trade unions, commercial banks, civil society organizations and multilateral organizations, such as UN Women, all of which are crucial to building greater economic empowerment and realizing rights for women.

Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation

The Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (HLM2) was hosted by the Government of Kenya in Nairobi. The Nairobi Outcome Document was released on 1 December 2016. This document will help to shape how existing and new development actors can partner to implement Agenda 2030 and realise the SDGs. The Outcome Document recognizes that women’s and girls’ rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are both a stand-alone goal and a cross-cutting issue to achieving sustainable development. The participants of the HLM2 committed to accelerate efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment by deepening multi-stakeholder partnerships and tracking resource allocations for these aims and by strengthening capacity for gender responsive budgeting. The participants recognized that gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s full and equal participation in leadership in the economy, including the digital economy, are vital to achieve sustainable development and significantly enhance economic growth and productivity.

Report of the High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth

The Commission report, submitted to the UN Secretary-General on September 20 2016, points to the health sector as a leading labour and economic sector, particularly so for women. For example, across a sample of 123 countries, women constitute 67% of employment in the health and social sector. Women’s participation in the informal health care economy is substantial, though largely unquantified. The Commission report makes 10 recommendations that speak to the opportunity to invest in and transform the global health workforce, as a means to concretely drive towards the goals of full and productive employment for all and gender equality. The recommendations include a call for investments in creating decent health sector jobs, particularly for women; maximizing women’s economic empowerment through addressing inequities in education and the health labour market, including better recognizing and rewarding women’s unpaid care; scaling up education, training and skills, particularly for women and girls, with a focus on socially accountable and technical, vocational, education and training; and to harmonize data and methodology in order strengthen evidence, accountability, action, including a strong gender focus. As immediate next steps, the Commission calls for the development of a five-year action plan, harmonization and strengthening of health labour market data and analyses, as well as for the international community to support the scale up of professional, technical and vocational education and training. The Commission recommendation and actions link closely to the commitments articulated in Sections 6 and 9 of Chapter 1, in the Addis Agenda.

ILO Training Modules on Gender Responsive Budgeting

The International Training Centre of the ILO has been regularly including training modules on gender responsive budgeting (GRB) as part of the ITCILO Gender Academy in 2011, 2013, and 2015. In addition, an interregional workshop on GRB for ILO constituents and other stakeholders took place in November 2016. During the years 2011-2015 the ITCILO has partnered UN Women and the European Commission in the project "Financing for Gender Equality". In this framework ITCILO has provided technical assistance to 7 EU Delegations and other development partners, to mainstream gender equality in their cooperation programmes at country level. In addition, in cooperation with a group of gender experts from development aid agencies and partners, ITCILO has produced an "EU Resource Package on Gender Mainstreaming in Development Cooperation". The package contains a collection of tools to mainstream gender issues throughout the lifecycle of the various cooperation aid modalities, from general budget support to sectoral planning and projects. It also offers free on-line learning resources, including on how to correctly use the OECD Gender Equality Policy Marker.