Achieving Gender Equality though Economic Empowerment

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A Call to Action

In September 2016, the United Nation’s High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment released its first report on the actions necessary to close the global gender gap in economic empowerment. The report, “Leave No One Behind”, emphasizes the unfair circumstances that disproportionately affect women in the workplace, i.e. wage gaps, job security vulnerability  associated with informal work, and lack of women in leadership. It also urges all economic actors to take the actions necessary to achieve economic gender equality.

Why Pursue Women’s Economic Empowerment?

The High-Level Panel is calling on governments, businesses, and development organizations to empower women as agents of change for their own economies. This contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, to “promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all”.

In the current global labor force, women are less likely to be participating in paid work compared to men almost everywhere globally, as “only one in two women aged 15 and over is in paid employment compared with about three in four men”. Not only do women earn less than men on average, but women also “take on more than three times more unpaid work and care than men”. They tend to work in the informal and agriculture sectors, which are less secure and protective of workers rights than male-dominated sectors, i.e. government and public sectors. 

Women are under structural pressure to sacrifice both education and paid work opportunities in order to support their families at home with childcare and housework (view a UN fact sheet on this here). Additionally, when women do have paid work while having a family, their wages are subject to gender discrimination. A fatherhood pay premium exists where “men’s earnings increased by more than 6 percent on average when they had cohabiting children while women’s earnings decreased by 4 percent for each child”. These double standards are crucial to overcome if we want to empower women in the global workforce.

Priorities

In order to create a sustainable, permanent impact on women’s economic empowerment, we must prioritize the seven drivers of change (the outer wheel) identified by the High-Level Panel: UN Women EE image.png

Changes must be made in all four work sectors (the inner wheel, consisting of: agriculture, enterprises, the formal sector, and informal work) in order to achieve women’s economic empowerment. Economic gender equality is associated with human development as a whole, higher income per capita, faster economic growth, and stronger national competitiveness. These advances are critical to achieving SDG 1, to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”.

Recommendations

Unequal pay and discrimination must be eradicated in every economic sector, and women must be represented in leadership roles at every level. In the formal sector, governments must not only provide protection in hiring, maternity, and wage situations, but must also ensure that women’s organizations are given full representation. Businesses must support women’s enterprises and women as role models in their own organizations. Both civil societies and international development institutions must increase women’s participation, leadership, and mentorship. They must include gender-specific strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Women’s economic empowerment is crucial to achieving gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment has officially called on the world’s economic actors to achieve women’s economic empowerment, and we must work to end discrimination in the workplace for all women worldwide.

7 Drivers image courtesy of UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

View the original presentation of the UN High-Level Panel’s first report here

Image courtesy of thp.org.

An International Look at Women’s Rights

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Until recently, the human rights of half the world’s population – women – were not universally protected, nor accepted in most parts of the world. In 2014, the United Nations (UN) released a publication, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” to further the international understanding of women’s human rights. The framework outlines key areas of women’s rights that must be addressed by all states around the world.

In 1948, the UN established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human rights applied to both men and women, using inclusive wording that eliminated the question of human rights applying only to men. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and other human rights treaties followed suit to be more inclusive of women in both its wording and the rights it guarantees (i.e. marriage rights, maternity and child protection, etc.). An official declaration of women’s rights was officially adopted in 1967 by the UN titled the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, proclaiming discrimination against women as a barrier to “the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity”.

Out of the fact that women’s rights are indeed human rights, women’s rights have become more widely understood as inalienable and of utmost priority for international development.

There are several key priorities toward the advancement and inclusion of women globally:

  • Identifying and citing private party violators of women’s rights, (i.e. individuals, small organizations, businesses, etc.)
  • Standardizing women’s rights – regardless of culture and traditional customs and practices
  • Ending discrimination that neglects women and prohibits their decision making influence, as well as their social and economic empowerment

Advocacy has a huge role to play in the achievement of gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which is to assure we “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, specifically targets several ways in which we can end gender inequality. We must end discrimination against all women, eradicate violence against women, ensure the opportunity for women to be leaders and decision-makers, protect all women’s right to reproductive and sexual health, guarantee women’s economic rights, and certify that the legal systems in place can protect these rights. Below are eight human rights that must immediately be achieved in each country to ensure the achievement of gender equality internationally.

  1. Education – Barriers to universal education must be eliminated. This includes child marriage, teen pregnancy, child labor, discriminatory policies, poor access to schools, and cultural tendencies.
  2. Political Roles – Women should not only have the right to vote, but also be constitutionally allowed to run for government office. (See SDG 5.5)
  3. Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – A women should be able to receive sexual and reproductive health care wherever she lives, including family planning and informative services. This care must also be provided by trained and safe providers. (See SDGs 3.7, 3.8, & 5.6)
  4. Adequate Standards of Living – Women must have access to basic resources such as food, clothing, and housing. These resources ultimately affect a woman’s economic prosperity, lifelong health, and her social capital. A food security system and economic opportunities must be in place to achieve adequate standards of living.
  5. Prevent and End Violence Against Women – Often occurring from entrenched patriarchy, violence against women further burdens vulnerable and impoverished populations. Victims of domestic abuse, female genital mutilations (FGM), and rape suffer severe psychological and health repercussions that can hinder development advancements. States must prioritize preventing violence against women and girls. (See SDG 5.2)
  6. Immigration and Displacement Protection – States involved in the origin, travel, and destination of migrant and displaced women should all be held accountable for protecting women against harm. Migrant and displaced women are at a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, depression, forced prostitution, and unacceptable working conditions due to their citizenship status.
  7. Protection in Conflict and Crises – Conflict can normalize and amplify the mistreatment of women, who are “often used as a tactic of war”. Woman are more vulnerable to rape, sexual violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations in these situations. Legal action and victim protection must be available and effective to protect women in these situations.
  8. Access to Legal Assistance and Justice – To achieve gender equality, we must have effective and accessible law and justice procedures to protect women at the local, national, and international level. Justice systems must be non-discriminatory, accessible to all women, and states must make it a priority to educate both women and law officials on the rights women are entitled to. (See SDG 5.c)

Women are capable of lifting their families, communities, and countries out of poverty. They have the ability to change the world if their human rights are recognized as not only important, but inalienable. We must ensure that humans rights are inclusive of women globally and that they enable women reach their full potential as agents of change.

To learn more about the SDGs, click here.

Image courtesy of UN News Centre.

Gender & Governance in rural India, Ghana, and Ethiopia

In 2010, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the World Bank (WB) conducted an analysis of agricultural extension and clean water access in rural areas in India, Ghana, and Ethiopia. The surveys were conducted in approximately 1,000 households in each country.

Access to agricultural extension varied across the three countries. There was reported moderate access in India and Ethiopia, and low access in Ghana. Agricultural extension services were reported as inconsistent in many areas and the quality of the service provided varied. Each country in the report had different apparent causes for the inadequate availability or poor quality of agricultural extension services. A common feature in every country was the gendered divide in access to agricultural extension services. Oftentimes, extension service workers did not talk to the women of the household and in some cases, there was a perception that women were not farmers and thus could not benefit from the extension services. Seemingly by default, the extension workers would speak only to the men of the household even if women were a part of the agricultural community in that region.

The IFPRI and WB report also investigated access to clean water in this study. India was reported to have high water access, Ghana had moderate access, and Ethiopia had low access to clean water. The decentralization of water access and maintenance in India most likely contributes to its high amount of clean water access. However, Ghana and Ethiopia do not report high disatisfaction rates even if water access is low. In addition to access, the survey also asked about maintenance and accountability to water systems. Regardless of rates of water access and happiness with water access, the share of households that reported dissatisfaction with their service (or lack thereof) to government officials or political representatives was low.

General recommendations for improving agricultural extension services and access to clean water address the gendered issues seen in every country. Some of suggestions are:

  • Looking at why rural services and solutions fail women: link gender-related efforts to general reform efforts and fix the perceptions that women are not farmers, or do not make agricultural decisions
  • There is a need to obtain gender-disaggregated data on access to services
  • Investigate the possibility of different kinds of community groups for services that are necessary for the entire population of the village or region: for instance, farmer-based organizations are good for targeting farmers but lack access to the entire population for promoting and ensuring clean water access=

IFPRI and the WB also recommended country-specific policy suggestions. There is an acknowledgement that agricultural extension services and clean water access are managed and maintained best by local actors. There have been efforts to decentralize these systems in all three countries, but there are recommendations to make the decentralization more effective.


India
To make decentralization as effective as possible, IFPRI recommends:

  • Creating structures to prevent elite capture of resources
  • Increasing gram panchayat administrative support
  • Making it easier for women to attend gram panchayat meetings

India has not hired new agricultural extension workers for more than a decade (in 2010) and capacity suffers because of this. Further recommendations include:

  • Hiring new extension workers as soon as possible will improve the quantity of farms an extension worker can visit and, hopefully with gender-sensitive training, can help bridge the gap between agricultural extension access between men and women
  • Re-establish the function of agricultural extension workers as a link between farmers and researchers.
  • Expanding extension workers roles even more- there is an opportunity for extension workers to organize inclusive farmer-based organizations and interest groups.

Suggestions for India’s clean water access focus mainly on making the water and sanitation systems more gender inclusive:

  • Getting more women involved in WASH committees
  • Including gender issues in WASH professionals’ training
  • Hiring more women
  • Focusing more on drainage

Ghana
Decentralization in Ghana has opportunities to be stronger. Some recommendations are gender focused:

  • Increasing the number of female district assembly members
  • Strengthening gender district focal points to ensure gender is a priority at the district level
  • Empowering district assembly members more
  • Strengthening the subdistrict structure, so as to aid district assembly members more effectively

Agricultural extension rates in Ghana are low. Improvements can be made by:

  • Better management practices
  • Focusing more on goals and outcomes of the agricultural extension workers
  • Increasing access to female farmers
  • Reconsidering the roles of farmer-based organizations to deliver agricultural extension services more effectively

Access to clean water is hindered by the misunderstanding around Ghana’s Water and Sanitation Committees (WATSANs). WATSANs have limited coverage, so expanding their capacity and strengthening their role in the accountability system is key for more effective implementation.

Ethiopia
Local government has a lot of potential in Ethiopia. The recommendations encapsulate the need for strengthening the capacity and skills of local government and supporting regional government as well. Additionally:

  • There are suggestions to better monitor local service delivery
  • Pay attention to the gender dimensions of service delivery and local leadership
  • Investigate the ruling party process and systems.

Currently agricultural extension services are narrowly focused and delivered from a very top-down approach. Promising strategies to make agricultural extension more effective are:

  • Giving extension workers more discretion
  • Extending coverage to where it is currently limited, like pastoral areas
  • Identifying innovative ways to bridge the gender gap in access to agricultural extension services

Ethiopia struggles with perceptions of clientelism in the delivery of public services. Effective delivery of gender-sensitive and inclusive water systems from water committees, and not political actors, will help make clean water more accessible and better maintained.

The book can be found in PDF form here.

Image courtesy of india.com

Common Violence Hinders the Common Man and Woman

51xb42qd1fl-_sx334_bo1204203200_In the 2014 book The Locust Effect, Gary Haugen makes the case that “common violence” impedes progress in international development. Haugen likens the cloud of locusts that swept over the middle of the United States in 1873, a force that devoured and decimated everything in its path, to the plague of violence that infects the world’s poor and inhibits progress towards a better life.

Haugen lists the main types of common violence that inhibit progress as sexual violence, which includes but is not limited to the trafficking of women and girls and sex slavery, forced labor, abusive police practices, torture, pre-trial detention, and violent land seizures. There is a range of what these types of violence looks like in different cultures and countries, but Haugen classifies common violence as any type of lawlessness that can occur almost anywhere to anyone where law enforcement and criminal justice systems are broken and do not benefit the people. He ties in the title again when describing the relationship between crime and the poor: “unlike the locusts of the Great Plains, who were equal-opportunity destroyers, the locusts of violence in the developing world actually seek out the poor.”

Haugen claims that crime and violence affect the poor more because they are targeted by those who have more power and money. Being born poor is being born with a target on your back; not just for those who will exploit you, but for police themselves. Haugen believes that a lack of training, corruption, and outdated, colonialist police programs that have never learned to serve the common people have resulted in completely ineffective police and criminal justice systems that do not work for the poor.

Violence and crime vary from country to country, from community to community, but almost all law enforcement, criminal justice, and court systems in the developing world could use some updates. Haugen acknowledges that change will not come easily, but claims it can be done. He sees some common themes in successes:

  • Each movement of criminal justice reform required local ownership and leadership of a very intentional effort to transform the justice system
  • Each public justice system had its own particular problems, symptoms of dysfunction, and obstacles to reform that required highly contextualized solutions
  • Committed community leaders and reform-minded elites played a critical role
  • Effective criminal justice systems improved the working conditions of the people working in the system
  • The priority goal of effective transformation efforts was a criminal justice system that prevented violence and crime and built trust with the public

Haugen gives some examples of successful projects and programs that have reformed law enforcement, criminal justice, and court systems.

  • In Brazil a group of organizations have united to combat forced labor slavery. Brazil’s Ministry of Labour and Employment (MTE) has Special Mobile Inspection Groups (GEFMs) that conduct surprise inspections and investigations on landowners and employers suspected of using slave labor. Between 1995 and 2010 these mobile units have rescued 38,301 laborers and the mobile units are being replicated across Brazil. These efforts have raised the profile of forced labor and awareness is higher than ever.
  • In Sierra Leone a small group called Timap for Justice are dedicated to legal empowerment of the poor. They believe that a shortage of qualified lawyers and the lack of available funds to pay for them is limiting the poor’s access to legal services. Timap uses highly-trained paralegals as their solution to address common crimes. These paralegals are trained to provide legal services to the poor without the cost of a lawyer. Paralegals are trained in mediation techniques and to be flexible with multiple approaches to law, whether from a traditional legal standpoint or a religious one. 40% of Sierra Leone has access to a community paralegal now, thanks to this scalable program which is in the process of expanding its reach.
  • A group in Peru, Paz y Esperanza, has mobilized community efforts to bring public accountability to the criminal justice system. By way of awareness and public action campaigns, they have fully secured more than 152 convictions of sexual predators since 2003. Paz y Esperanza brought the epidemic of sexual violence into the public conversation and even led a successful campaign to remove four corrupt judges from the local courts who refused to prosecute sexual violence with integrity.

There are many more success stories and useful lessons to learn in The Locust Effect. Haugen wants us to talk about violence in the broader context of development because he believes that success will only be long-lasting if the threat of fear of violence is diminished. He makes a compelling case.

 

Images courtesy of un.org and amazon.com

OECD Report: Women & Money, or Lack Thereof

In June 2016 OECD released a report that investigated funding for organizations and programs whose objectives target gender equality. The title for this report should speak volumes: ‘Tracking the Money for Women’s Economic Empowerment – Overall Donor Support Targeted for Gender Equality: Small’. It is only recently that budgets and finances have become more transparent. The data revealed by this new level of transparency does not bode well for programs and organizations that have a primary focus to achieve gender equality. Aid committed by Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members specifically for women’s economic empowerment reached $8.8 billion on average in 2013-14, a rise from the average in 2007-8, $5.2 billion. Unfortunately, only 24% of DAC member aid to the economic and productive sectors included targeted gender equality as a primary or secondary objective in 2013-14. Furthermore, aid targeting women’s economic empowerment as the principal objective accounts for only 2% of all aid going towards the economic and productive sectors, a percentage which has not changed for six years.

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As seen above, 43% of the $8.8 billion DAC members committed for women’s economic empowerment went towards ‘Agriculture and Rural Development’. According to the OECD report, via the FAO “only 5% of women across 97 countries have access to agricultural and other training activities, and only 15% of agricultural extension agents are women”. Programs and actions that level the playing field for women to avail of agricultural extension services and markets should also be included in future programs. Gender parity is also critical when considering women’s access to owning and controlling land.

17% of the $8.8 billion given for women’s empowerment in the banking and business sector. A lot of this money is focused on microcredit opportunities. While microcredit is a useful tool for many women, the report claims there is lack of importance placed on gender equality in the formal banking, credit, and insurance industries and women should have access to the full range of credit and monetary services at their disposal.

This report highlights the extremely low levels of investment in programs and organizations that focus on the gender dimension of transportation, infrastructure, and the energy sector. Shifts in infrastructure and transportation will improve a woman’s access to markets, jobs, and other services like healthcare and education. Additionally, improving access to affordable energy sources can increase the time for paid work activities and and reduce time spent on unpaid work. An IDS report found that a woman’s benefit to electricity in her home freed up much more time for paid work activities because electricity helped reduce the time needed for domestic activities. The IDS report included a study in Indonesia that found an increase of 27% of rural, nonfarm income after electricity was introduced. The OECD report laments the reality that funding for energy programs so frequently does not include a gender dimension because women would benefit so much from affordable, sustainable energy.

There is a disparity between the call for inclusion of women for the success of the SDGs and numbers that suggest the opposite. If women are deemed important for the ultimate success of the SDGs, the money invested should reflect that importance.

Update 8.15.16: Three reports from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) have been brought to our attention which corroborate and expand on the OECD report.

A How-To on Policy Advocacy

Bipartisan Legislation for Feed the Future Introduced in Congress

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Image courtesy of USAID

Members of the House and Senate introduced legislation to authorize the US Government’s Feed the Future Initiative on September 19, 2014. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced the Feed the Future Global Food Security Act of 2014 to the House, while Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Senate’s Global Food Security Act of 2014. The bills were cosponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Both bills “seeks to improve maternal and child nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday,” aligning with USAID’s new approach to combat global poverty and malnutrition through a multi sectoral nutrition strategy.

Currently 805 million people are suffering from hunger globally, malnutrition being the main cause of mortality in children under five. Inarguably, hunger and malnutrition have been the major obstacles for progress in the developing world. The Feed the Future Initiative aims to end hunger by 2030 by increasing agricultural productivity and creating opportunities for economic growth and trade in developing countries. The initiative also aims to boost harvest and income of rural smallholder farmers, and improve agricultural research while giving more access to more people to existing technologies. Lastly, it will work to increase resilience to prevent recurrent environmental crises and help communities better cope.

The Hunger Project, as an active member of the Food Security and Agriculture Working Group at Interaction, is excited by the legislation garnering bipartisan support. We acknowledge that it is not only an indication of a unified global fight against hunger, but also the prioritization of assistance to small-scale farmers, especially women.

The bills are expected to go to the floor for possibly ratification when Congress returns from recess after the November midterm election. The Hunger Project expects that bipartisan support will continue throughout the deliberation process.