By Barbara Adams and Sarah Dayringer
Less than one month ago the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted its “ agreed conclusions” on “Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development.”
From 18-20 April, the Financing for Development Forum (FfD Forum) will provide an early test on the commitment and ability of Member States and the UN system to finance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and address structural obstacles to development.
The CSW Agreed Conclusions state:
The Commission recognizes that women play a vital role as agents of development and acknowledges that realizing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is crucial to progress across all Sustainable Development Goals and targets.
CSW has the leading role in monitoring and reviewing progress and problems in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and in mainstreaming a gender perspective in UN activities. However, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Turns 20 report released in March 2015, concluded that no country has achieved gender equality or women’s empowerment to date, and that it would take 70 years to reach such equality at the pace reflected over the past 20 years since the Beijing Declaration was adopted.
Brazil’s Ambassador Antonio Patriota, as chair the 60th session, posed two guiding questions: “How will countries ensure implementation of the  Agenda will be gender responsive; and how will gender equality and women’s empowerment be prioritised?”
A critical aspect of this is the attention to gender equality and work – paid and unpaid, formal and informal – which has been included across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially in goals five and eight on gender equality and decent work.
In introducing the ILO Report Women at Work: Trends 2016 during CSW, Vinicius Carvalho Pinheiro of the ILO, identified five major gender gaps, which he referred to as the “Gender Lotto” (27, 23, 60, 11, 50):
- Employment Gap. While the participation rate of men is 72%, the rate for women is 45%, revealing that women participate 27% less in the work force. “If you look at the past 20 years globally, this has remained virtually unchanged (or has changed .06%).”
- Wages Gap. Today, for the same type of job, women make 77% that of what men make or 23% less.
- Working Hours Gap. In developing countries if you combine paid and unpaid work or (formal and informal work) women work from 9.20hr a day on average while men work 8 hours or only 60% less compared to women. The care gap is a part of this as shown in developed economies, where women on average spend about twice as much time as men on unpaid care work.
- Social Protection Gap. “Pensions, generally are based on rights acquired while a person is working, which leave women less likely to be entitled to a pension” and thus women are 11% less likely than for men to receive a pension.
- Occupational Segregation Gap. Based on a sample of 102 countries, women remain underrepresented compared to their fair share of employment in clerical and sales professions, “while in managerial and civic leadership positions there is a 50% gap in terms of differences between men and women.”
In the Agreed Conclusions of the 60th CSW, Member States identify a number of measures designed to improve women’s access to, and participation in decent work. These include:
- adopting legislation and reforms to realize the equal rights of women and men, and where applicable girls and boys, to access economic and productive resources, including access to, ownership of, and control over land, property and inheritance rights, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance, and women’s equal opportunities for full and productive employment and decent work;
- promoting women’s economic rights and independence, women’s right to work and rights at work through gender-responsive policies and programmes that promote decent work for all; ensuring equal pay for equal work or and work of equal value; protecting women against discrimination and abuse in the workplace; investing in and empowering women in all sectors in the economy by supporting women-led businesses, including by tailoring a range of approaches and instruments which facilitate access to universal public services, finance, training and technology, markets, sustainable and affordable energy and transport and trade; and
- undertaking appropriate measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work by prioritizing social protection policies, including accessible and affordable quality social services, and care services for children, persons with disabilities, older persons and persons living with HIV and AIDS, and all others in need of care, and promote the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men;
The CSW laid out a multi-year programme of work during its 60th session as follows: 2017 priority theme: women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work; 2018 priority theme: challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls; and 2019) priority theme: social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
This programme offers scope for a two-pronged approach – to input and shape upcoming agendas, and to monitor, assess and “grade / rate” the quality of outcomes for achieving gender equality. Policy guidance calls for naming and shaming the obstacles as well as laying out a plan for implementation.
Inadequate financing has been a major obstacle as the Agreed Conclusions point out. They also state the need to:
- take steps to significantly increase investment to close resource gaps, including through the mobilization of financial resources from all sources, including public, private, domestic and international resource mobilization and allocation, including by enhancing revenue administration through modernized, progressive tax systems, improved tax policy and more efficient tax collection and increased priority on gender equality and the empowerment of women in official development assistance to build on progress achieved, and ensure that official development assistance is used effectively; and
- implement macroeconomic, labour and social policies which promote full and productive employment and decent work for all in order to benefit women and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as well as to enhance economic efficiency and optimize the contribution of women to economic growth and poverty reduction, promote processes to develop and facilitate the availability of appropriate knowledge and technologies globally, and increase awareness among decision makers, the private sector and employers of the necessity of women’s economic empowerment and their important contribution;
How will the Financing for Development Forum respond to these recommendations from CSW?
Ambassador Patriota concluded “unless we move this to a political diplomatic agenda we will not change the mindsets and behavior that are being prejudicial to society especially from a sustainable development perspective.”