The OECD defines economic empowerment as “the capacity of women and men to participate in, contribute to and benefit from growth processes in ways that recognize the value of their contributions, respect their dignity and make it possible to negotiate a fairer distribution of the benefits of growth. Economic empowerment” says the OECD “increases women’s access to economic resources and opportunities including jobs, financial services, property and other productive assets, skills development and market information.”
Women’s economic empowerment is a prerequisite for sustainable development and concrete actions were suggested by the OECD. Actions suggested included making public financial management systems work for women; confronting and overcoming the cultural and social norms that hold back women and girls and accurately tracking the proportion and coverage of aid focused on achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
After the Millennium Development Goals – The Post 2015 Development Agenda
(June 2, 2014) The zero document of the Open Work Group for the Post 2015 Development Agenda recognizes a number of important issues such as the fact that people are at the center of sustainable development, and there is a clear commitment “to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection”. Very important.
However, while this document lists the 17 Proposed Sustainable development goals to be attained by 2030 none of the goals specifically target the economic empowerment of women. And I ask, why not?
Goal number 4 talks about the provision of equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. Goal 5 proposes the attainment of gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. Economic empowerment of women is not mentioned, which is disappointing. When women are economically independent they have real control over their own lives and destinies.
Back in 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for Equality, Development and Peace
BPfA included a commitment to “promote women’s economic independence, including employment.” They talked about the need to “eradicate the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women by addressing the structural causes of poverty through changes in economic structures, ensuring equal access for all women, including those in rural areas, as vital development agents, to productive resources, opportunities and public services”.
Today, the Business and Professional Women’s Network is doing everything in its power to ensure women are treated equally in the workplace and the Women’s Empowerment Principles (which I wrote about a couple of months ago) will help in this regards – and hopefully business will play its part!
But, in the meantime, we must strive to ensure that women’s economic independence and empowerment is clearly stated in the new Sustainable development goals. This needs to be named, it needs to be targeted. This needs to be the century when we allow women to be free and equal.
My mother always said – Mary, always be independent, always have control over your own destiny.
Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor