At its forty-fifth
session in March 2001, the Commission on the Status of Women adopted
a new multi-year programme of work identifying the priority themes
for the period 2002-2006. Accordingly, in 2002, the Commission,
at its forty-sixth session, will consider the theme "Eradicating
poverty, including through the empowerment of women throughout their
life cycle in a globalizing world." In order to assist the Commission
in its work, the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) will
convene an expert group meeting on the theme of "Empowerment of
women throughout the life cycle as a transformative strategy for
poverty eradication", which will be hosted by the Government of
India in New Delhi, from 26-29 November 2001.
and conclusions of the meeting will provide basis for the preparation
of the Secretary-General's Report on "Eradicating poverty, including
through the empowerment of women throughout their life cycle in
a globalizing world" to be submitted to the session of the Commission
on the Status of Women in March 2002.
The full report
of the expert group meeting will also be made available to the Commission
to assist in its deliberations on this theme.
Though the issue
of poverty has always been a major concern in the work of the United
Nations, the challenge of its eradication remains on top of both
the international and national agendas. Through global United Nations
conferences and summits, a set of inter-connected and mutually reinforcing
goals and targets have been agreed to by governments in order to
combat poverty. With a growing recognition that poverty has a significant
gender dimension, the recommended strategies also emphasize the
importance of achieving the goals of gender equality and advancement
of women in poverty eradication efforts.
During the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing the international
community expressly recognized that women and men experience poverty
differently, and agreed that if these differences are not taken
into account, the causes of poverty cannot be understood or dealt
with by public action. The Platform for Action adopted in Beijing
included the issue of women and poverty in its 12 critical areas
of concern, and identified strategic objectives that should be taken
into account in addressing the issue of poverty among women. It
emphasized that the "empowerment of women is a critical factor in
the eradication of poverty" and recommended that poverty eradication
strategies address the multidimensional nature of poverty.
At its fortieth session, in 1996, the Commission on the Status of
Women considered the critical area of concern women and poverty
within the context of reviewing the implementation of the Beijing
Platform for Action. The deliberations resulted in the adoption
of resolution 40/9 which emphasized that the empowerment and autonomy
of women along with the improvement of women's social, economic
and political status are essential for the eradication of poverty.
In 1997, the General Assembly, in its resolution 52/193, reaffirmed
that all governments and the United Nations system should promote
an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective
into the planning and implementation of policies, strategies and
programmes on poverty eradication.
The issue of women in poverty became an important dimension of National
Action Plans (NAPs) for the implementation of the Beijing Platform
that governments were to develop in the following years. The 118
national action plans (NAPs) received as of April 2000 by the Division
for the Advancement of Women revealed that more than half reported
on their efforts to mainstream a gender perspective into poverty
eradication policies and programmes. In the review and appraisal
of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, in 2000,
it was reaffirmed that "the success of anti-poverty policies and
programmes depend on the extent to which these policies and programmes
empower people living in poverty in general and women in particular."
As the situation of women in poverty acquired new urgency with the
accelerating pace and impact of globalization, the Economic and
Social Council, by its decision 1998/298, decided to consider at
its high-level segment of its substantive session in 1999 the theme
"The role of empowerment and work in poverty eradication: the empowerment
and advancement of women". In its follow-up resolution 2000/26 the
Economic and Social Council reiterated the call for the relevant
organizations within the United Nations system and the international
community to take consistent, coherent, coordinated and joint actions
in support of national efforts to eradicate poverty, with particular
attention to employment creation and work and the empowerment and
advancement of women.
The impact of globalization on the world of work from a gender perspective
became the major theme of the 1999 World Survey on the Role of Women
in Development. The Survey also examined whether and how the processes
of globalization contribute to women's empowerment and poverty eradication.
The issue of women's empowerment and poverty eradication was addressed
during the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly
entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace in
the twenty-first century". In the outcome document (A/RES/S-23/3)
adopted at the session, governments were called on to strive to
reduce the disproportionate presence of women living in poverty
by implementing national poverty eradication programmes with a focus
on a gender perspective and the empowerment of women, including
short- and long-term goals.
This appeal was reinforced in the United Nations Millennium Declaration
(A/RES/55/2) where Governments resolved "to halve, by the year 2015,
the proportion of the world's people whose income is less than a
dollar a day" and "to promote gender equality and the empowerment
of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease
and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable."
In 2001 the UN Inter Agency Meeting on Women, together with the
OECD/DAC/Working Party on Gender Equality, organized the workshop
on Governance, Poverty Reduction and Gender Equality. In the Joint
Communiqué of the meeting, the participants agreed that good governance,
gender equality and women's empowerment are necessary conditions
for the reduction of poverty and are inextricably linked to human
rights and social justice.
The main objective of the current meeting is to examine the empowerment
of women throughout their live cycle as a transformative strategy
for poverty eradication. Key policy recommendations will then be
proposed in that respect. The main emphasis will be on policies
and programmes for women that promote their empowerment within the
context of globalization.
Poverty has many faces and dimensions, and manifests in diverse
ways, therefore, a universally accepted definition has not been
feasible. It is proposed that this meeting use the concept of "human
poverty" that was introduced in the 1997 Human Development Report.
According to this perspective the poor are those who are deprived
of basic human needs and entitlements, in terms of command over
resources and opportunities. It includes not only the condition
of economic insufficiency, but also social and political exclusion.
It takes into account more than the basic needs for material well
being, and view poverty as multidimensional, acknowledging its gender
dimension. It also provides a link to a rights-based approach to
poverty alleviation through emphasis on good governance, good leadership
and empowerment of people.
The concept of human poverty has been helpful in explaining the
relationship between gender inequalities and poverty. Women are
more vulnerable to poverty because of gender inequalities in the
distribution of income, access to productive inputs such as credit,
command over property or control over earned income, as well as
gender-biases in labour markets and social exclusion that women
experience in a variety of economic and political institutions.
In addition, women do not always have full control or command over
their basic asset, i.e., their own labour.
The concept of human poverty also makes it possible to disaggregate
data by sex and age thus allowing for an analysis of the relative
poverty or well-being of individual members of a household. Such
an approach focuses on gender differences in education, training,
health services and life -expectancy and the socially constructed
constraints on the choices of women gender inequalities perpetuate
and reproduce the poverty of individuals, families, communities
from one generation to the next. They also have an impact on economic
growth performance and therefore have direct and indirect consequences
for poverty reduction.
The policy implications of this approach have emphasized empowerment
of the poor, particularly of poor women, as essential to the success
of poverty elimination efforts. Policies should be evaluated by
posing the question as to whether they help or hinder economic social
and political empowerment of women.
However, the term "women's empowerment" also has multiple meanings
and interpretations and is associated with a diversity of strategies.
It is important to clarify the notion of women's empowerment focusing
on its transformative nature, and identify the key elements and
principles of empowerment strategy that would ensure that women
of all ages have equal access to entitlements and capabilities that
would allow them to break the cycle of poverty and maintain it in
the long run.
Although the empowerment of women has been acknowledged as a critical
factor in breaking the cycle of poverty, it has not yet been sufficiently
taken into account and translated into polices and programmes at
the national and international levels. Therefore, it is important
to develop policy and programme recommendations on how to empower
Employment is at the core of economic development and social stability
and it is an essential step out of poverty. The central role of
remunerative employment in poverty reduction is fully recognized
in Commitment Three of 1995 Copenhagen Social Summit.
Since 1980s the growth of the female labour force has been substantially
higher than that of men throughout the world, except Africa. While
this trend might suggest a closing of gender gap in employment,
the entry of women into the labour market has not always been an
entirely positive development for them. Indeed, they tend to be
concentrated in the lower status and lower-paid jobs. Evidence has
shown that persistent discrimination against women in the labour
market, the existing income gap, unequal access to productive resources,
capital, education, training and decision-making processes, as well
as socio-cultural factors that define women within narrow reproductive
roles continue to contribute to the high incidence of poverty among
During the meeting, the experts would consider poverty from a gender
perspective within the context of globalization and identify transformative
empowerment strategies for women to enable them to deal effectively
with poverty and break through its vicious circle. Therefore, the
expert group meeting will have a dual focus:
1. Poverty in a globalizing world at different stages of women's
2. Transformative strategies of empowerment through institutional
and policy change at micro, meso and macro levels.
The experts, in the light of their deliberations, will also formulate
recommendations directed toward governments, the United Nations
system, intergovernmental and regional bodies and civil society.
They will aim to refine and expand an agenda for "action to be taken"
at both the international and national levels to eradicate poverty
as outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action and in the outcome
document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.
IV. The background documentation and profile of the participants
The documentation for the meeting will consist of:
· A background paper prepared by a consultant;
· Short papers prepared by each expert on a specific topic from
her/his area of expertise;
· Papers prepared by observers.
The expert group meeting will be attended by 8-10 experts appointed
by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as well as observers
from Governments, entities of the United Nations system, intergovernmental
organizations, the private sector, academia, and non-governmental
organizations. In selecting the experts, the criteria of geographical
and gender balance will be respected. They will be drawn from a
variety of fields and expertise.
The meeting will be organized by the Division for the Advancement
of Women (DAW) of the United Nations Department of Economic and
The meeting will meet in plenary, and in working groups. In an opening
plenary meeting, background presentations will create a conceptual
framework for the discussion. The plenary will be followed by an
in-depth discussion on specific issues in working groups where the
participants will also make short presentations. On the last day
of the meeting the participants will adopt a final report that would
contain the main conclusions and recommendations of the meeting.
VI. Administrative arrangements
The United Nations will provide travel and daily subsistence allowance
for experts and a consultant. The meeting will be conducted in English
and the documentation will be in English. The costs of participation
of experts invited by the Secretariat will be covered by the United
Nations (travel cost in economy class and daily subsistence allowance).
Observers are responsible for their own travel arrangements and
expenses. The Government of India will host the meeting and provide
All correspondence should be addressed to:
Ms. Dorota Gierycz
Chief, Gender Analysis Section
Division for the
Advancement of Women
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
UN Plaza, Room DC2-1244
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 963 3463
Ms. Natalia Zakharova
Social Affairs Officer
UN Plaza, Room DC2-1246
New York, NY 10017
Ms. Sharon Taylor, DAW/DESA
Associate Social Affairs Officer
UN Plaza, Room DC2-1242
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 963 3463