13 March 2018

Empowerment, Equality Vital for Women’s Economic Success, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Interactive Dialogue, Urging Greater Access to Resources

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Group of 77 high-level interactive dialogue, on the margins of the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women, titled “Innovative practices for the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women, especially rural women:  lessons from the South”, in New York today:

I am very pleased to be here with you today, and to be part of such a distinguished panel.  As many speakers before me have repeated over and over the past few days:  the time is now — for respect, for equality and for opportunity.

Today, all over the world, voices are being raised for the empowerment of women and previously hidden stories are being told.  All of us are standing together to re-shape the way we live together.  This is a pivotal moment for women’s rights.

In adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, United Nations Member States embraced a highly ambitious, universal and interlinked plan that reaffirms the importance of human rights, effective institutions, inclusive growth and partnerships.  With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2030 Agenda is a pledge by the Governments of the world to work in partnership for peace, prosperity, dignity and equality for all people on a healthy planet.

Gender equality, as both an objective and driver of sustainable development, is key to achieving not only Goal 5, but all the SDGs.  Women’s empowerment is no charity.  It is a human right and it is the best way to achieve equitable, peaceful and prosperous world.

But progress is lagging behind aspiration as gender inequalities remain pervasive in every dimension of sustainable development.  New data on extreme poverty in 89 countries shows that globally there are 4.4 million more women than men living on less than $1.90 a day.  The gender pay gap stands at a stubborn 23 per cent globally.  Violence against women and girls is rampant around the world, with one in five women and girls having experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner in the past 12 months.  And too often — way too often — those who are furthest behind are rural women and girls.

Today’s dialogue provides a timely opportunity to share experiences and good innovative practices for the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women — especially rural women from the South.  It is a chance to advance catalytic partnerships that help to fast-track women’s equal participation in the work force and as entrepreneurs.  It is through these innovative, multisectoral collaborations that sustainable development can be realized.

We need action on five critical fronts drawing from lessons from our work in developing countries:  First, we need to put gender equality at the centre of implementation.  Women’s access to economic resources — land, labour market earnings, social protection — is essential for eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, better education, health and nutritional outcomes, and the achievement of inclusive growth.

Second, we must close the financing gap.  Without adequate resources, many of the essential services on which women and girls depend will remain unavailable or inadequate.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda shows the way, but we also need to think about innovative ways to make funding work harder for us, whether that is microfinancing, crowdfunding, digital financing or strong partnerships with the private sector and international financial institutions. 

Third, we need to improve monitoring.  We need hard facts on what works for women and girls, so that we can change direction as needed.  This means improving disaggregated data on gender and supporting national statistical systems, particularly in developing countries.

Fourth, we need to close the gender gap in jobs related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  We will need to change this if we are to harness the new opportunities offered by artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and other advances for learning, employment and entrepreneurship.   

Fifth, and finally, we need to strengthen accountability for gender equality commitments at all levels.  Targets and pledges are not enough.  We need to hold people to them.

We know it is possible to improve outcomes, where women and girls can participate meaningfully in planning and decision-making, where there are incentives to advance gender equality, and where poor performance on women’s rights is acknowledged and has consequences.  Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are an economic and business imperative.  It is now up to us to ensure that these recommendations are followed up with action and accountability if we want to achieve Planet 50-50 by 2030.  I urge everyone here to do your part as once again:  the time is now.

For information media. Not an official record.