Empowering the female gender economically By Sabin Muzaffar
Women economic empowerment is the buzzword of the 21st century, fuelled by the realisation that sustainable development is impossible without the rightful inclusion of half of the population of the world; based on equal rights and opportunities. Termed as the third billion after China and India, women are poised to enter the global economic sphere as entrepreneurs, consumers, producers, employers as well as employees in the next ten years. Positive as this may sound, it is not untrue to claim that the road ahead for women economic empowerment is riddled with hurdles. [Picture Credit: Digital Empowerment Foundation]
Women are central to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals, be it education, alleviating humanitarian crises, poverty, climate change or accessing opportunities and resources. While addressing the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009, former President Bill Clinton said: “Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, and produce 50 percent of the food, yet earn only 10 percent of the income and own one percent of the property. Whether the issue is improving education in the developing world, or fighting global climate change, or addressing nearly any other challenge we face, empowering women is a critical part of the equation.”
Narrowing the gender gap in labour markets potentially means a rise in the GDP of nations. A McKinsey Global Institute report finds that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. The public, private, and social sectors will need to act to close gender gaps in work and society.
According to another research, women’s equal participation in modern economy could enable a regional GDP rise by 47 percent over the next one decade, realizing an economic impact of $2.7 trillion by 2025. The situation is quite similar in India – a country where half of the 1.2 billion population is woman. Enabling the female gender to do more paid work can add 60 percent or $2.9 trillion to the GDP by 2025 – with women’s participation at a dismal low of 24 percent currently, says a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute Report.
Indeed much is being said and highlighted on global forums about empowering the female gender economically. The need of the hour is not only a meaningful dialogue between stakeholders including international organizations, governments, civil society, public and private sectors, it is also critical to enable women by providing them access to education, healthcare and resources. From rural areas to urban societies, sustainable economic development needs a multi-pronged response starting from devising inclusively empowering policies pertaining to education, healthcare, unremunerated care work, equal access to
productive resources. While policies can have a positive trickle-down impact on nations, the private sector can boost development by not only encouraging women entrepreneurship and the SME sector, it can also contribute to woman-centric social enterprise; facilitating micro and macro economic gains based on gender equality.
Indeed women’s economic empowerment accelerates growth and underpins the achievement of global goals. The question is do we have the vision to initiate a holistic, (read: real) change, creating a world that is free, fair and equitable?
Sabin Muzaffar is the Executive Editor of Ananke (www.anankemag.com) – an online publication empowering women through awareness and education. She is also UN Women’s Empower Women Global Champion for Women Economic Empowerment.