I would like to thank Ambassador Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees, Permanent Representative of Egypt and Chair of the Group of 77 and China, for inviting UNDP to support this important deliberation on the topic of Women’s Economic Empowerment and Financial Inclusion.
I would like to recognize and thank Ms. Ana Maria Menendez Under Secretary General and Senior Adviser to the Secretary General on Policy and Ms. Åsa Regnér Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women for joining us in supporting these deliberations.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you to this high-level panel discussion on the critical importance of women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion to sustainable development.
Our discussion today builds on the momentum created by the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals to elevate the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a development goal on its own, but also as a driver of the achievement of all the other sustainable development goals.
For example, SDG 1 on ending poverty cannot be achieved unless all men and women have equal rights to economic resources, including financial services and microfinance. Yet globally, only 64% of women have access to an account in a financial institution compared to 71% for men . The gap is wider in low income countries where only 21% of women have accounts compared to 29% for men. And SDG 2 on zero hunger cannot be achieved without doubling the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, financial services and markets.
If women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase the yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, which could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent per annum, and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.
Simply put, empowering women economically drives social progress and mobility. When women have money in their pockets, they invest in education and health which results in better nutrition for children, higher levels of education and greater resilience to shocks of all kinds that usually erode development gains and keep people in poverty.
As such, women’s economic empowerment has a direct impact on economic growth. Achieving gender equality in educational attainment and labour force participation by 2030 could raise global GDP by 3.6 percent and reduce the share of the global population living in extreme by 0.5 percentage points.
Today, women are increasingly contributing to economic, political and social transformation as entrepreneurs, farmers, educators and political leaders. Yet despite progress in closing gender inequalities, especially in education and health, gaps remain and women’s contributions are often overlooked and undervalued.
Globally, women’s labor force participation is 49 percent compared to 76 percent for men, with higher rates of participation in developing countries (70.3%). Yet, women’s labor is poorly rewarded as women in the formal sector earn 23 percent less than men. In addition, 43 percent of all women work in the informal sector, with low wages, precarious employment, no social protection and increased vulnerability.
Active measures are needed to eliminate barriers to women’s economic empowerment. We must invest in women and girls and address the negative social norms and socio-economic barriers that prevent women from fully exploiting their potential. This includes redistributing and reducing the burden of women’s unpaid domestic and care work by improving access to water and affordable energy. We must ensure the implementation of key commitments made by national actors, scale up innovations and the use of technology to achieve women’s equal rights to property, credit, land and natural resources and decent work.
UNDP is committed to working closely across the UN system, notably with UN Women, to support countries to empower women economically. We are expanding collaboration with the private sector, which is a critical partner in advancing gender equality and empowering women in the workplace.
We are delighted to support your efforts over the next few days to explore the best strategies for promoting women’s economic empowerment, which is critical to achieving our shared goal of building a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world. Let me close by again thanking the Chair and members of the G77 and China for leading this important discussion. I wish you a fruitful meeting.