Rebeca Grynspan: Mary Kay Women’s Small Business Fund 10 Year Anniversary event

14 Sep 2011

Rebeca Grynspan, UNDP Associate Administrator
Mary Kay Women’s Small Business Fund 10 Year Anniversary event
Chongqing Hall, Great Hall of the People, China
Wednesday, 14 September 2011. 10.00 a.m.

Members of the media,
Distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great privilege and a pleasure to stand here amongst so many leading advocates of women’s empowerment in China and to participate in the launch of this new partnership between the All-China Women’s Federation, Mary Kay China, and the United Nations Development Programme.

UNDP has enjoyed a long and close association with the All-China Women’s Federation in promoting and advancing the status of women.  It is rewarding to see how our partnership continues to evolve, and grow with new partners like Mary Kay. 

I understand that over the last decade, through the Mary Kay Women’s Small Business Fund, All-China Women’s Federation and Mary Kay have forged a truly exceptional partnership to provide female entrepreneurs with the financial and intellectual support, guidance and confidence that they need to excel. I congratulate you on this strong partnership. Though each of our organisations is different, we clearly have much in common.  Starting by the believe that investing in women and girls is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do from a social and economics point of view.  All studies clearly suggest than one of the main accelerators to achieve ALL the Millennium Development Goals is investing in women and girls and through the political and economic empowering of women.

China is very well positioned to achieve the MDGs.  China has achieved the fastest poverty reduction process in history, lifting more than 500 million people out of poverty since reforms back in 1978. This has not only greatly exceeded China’s Millennium Development Goal target, but has ensured that the world as a whole is on track. If we exclude China’s achievements the world would NOT be on track to achieve the goal of halving the planet’s  population living in extreme poverty by 2015 as agreed by the world leaders in the year 2000.

China has made very strong progress toward achieving the other Millennium Development Goals too, and has in fact already met several of these goals ahead of schedule. For example, to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling, China has raised its net primary and junior high school enrolment rates above 99% in 2009.

The goals to halve the proportion of people in hunger and reduce the under five mortality rate by two-thirds have also already been met.

China’s leaders have also created a powerful vision of sustainable and equitable development and made good progress towards its attainment. 

This remarkable transformation has created tremendous opportunities for women and remarkable progress has been achieved also in this front. One measure of this progress can be exemplify by the fact that according to UNDP’s calculations, whilst China ranks 89th in the world in UNDP’s Human Development Index, it ranks much higher – 38th place – on our Gender Inequality Index, a multi-dimensional measure of gender disparities.

Yet despite strong progress in advancing gender equity, women across the country and indeed, throughout the world, are still less empowered than men, be it economically, politically or socially.  There is NO country in the world that has achieved Gender EQUALITY, and as in China we find all around the globe women being disadvantage with respect to salary differentials, labour force participation, access to social protection, access to property rights, political representation and the challenge of gender based violence.

This continues to be true despite tremendous achievement in gender equality in education (in many societies we speak about the reverse gender inequality gap where men are started to be less educated than women).  So the reason for the persistence of inequalities cannot be attributed like in the past to women lack of preparation and education.  

What explains the persistence and stubbornness of gender inequality in our societies despite all the scientific evidence, research and studies being produced? Studies have shown that employing women raises productivity and therefore adds more to GDP than men, adding more value to capital investment.  The 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, for example, calculated that lack of female participation in the workforce costs the Asia-Pacific region an estimated $89 billion in lost GDP each year.

No doubt part of the explanation derives from something women movements have stated from the beginning, the invisibility and undervalue of women role and contribution to society and a kind of blindness of many of the policies and decisions with respect to the differentiated impact these actions have on women. 

That is why we are convinced that progress will be slow if we leave it to a natural evolution.  We need to help progress by coming together, educate and raise awareness of women needs and valuable contributions to society and to progress, recognizing that the form and evolution of this progress will be specific to each context.   

So if China’s development ambitions are to be fully realised, it is crucial to further empower women to seize upon the opportunities presented by China’s impressive growth and to  increase the quality of women’s economic and political participation. 

For many women around the world, poverty is a matter of time as much as money. They have to spend many hours walking, for example to fetch water and wood, as a result of poor infrastructure. So we need to consider not only income poverty but time poverty as well, when designing public and private interventions in the achievement of gender equality.  We all here today know exactly what we are talking about, because time poverty with respect to women if very widely spread.  Many of us have struggle in life to carry out our carriers, raise a family and participate as responsible members of society.  Imagine the   challenge this represent for rural and poor women around the world.

We need to empower all women, especially those from poor and vulnerable communities to be leaders and decision makers in their own communities and beyond, which will promote balanced and equitable development.

And as Mary Kay and ACWF are doing, we also need to promote female entrepreneurship, ensuring that more women have access to the business opportunities that will drive China’s future prosperity.

UNDP is uniquely placed to support China in achieving these goals. We have been working with the All China Women’s Federation, under Mme. Chen Zhili’s strong leadership, as one of our closest partners. We are, for example, currently working with ACWF to help find ways to improve basic social services for women in some of the poorest rural areas.

Globally, we work to ensure that women have a real voice in all governance institutions, as well as in the private sector and civil society, allowing them to participate on an equal footing with men, and influence the decisions that will determine the future of their families and communities. 

In China, UNDP has provided business development opportunities to women from poor and ethnic minority communities for more than 30 years. Beginning in 1994, UNDP was the first international organisation to pilot microfinance initiatives in China through partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and local governments and the establishment of grassroots associations. to . Since 2006, through our $7 million Poverty Reduction for Ethnic Minorities in China project, UNDP has worked with the China International Centre for Economic and Technical Exchange and the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, to create further new small business opportunities in ethnic minority communities across China. 

Our experience has shown that empowering women economically not only improves livelihoods, but gives them the confidence, status and skills to participate more effectively in the management of family and community affairs. That is why UNDP’s projects are designed not only to provide women with the capital they need to jumpstart their own businesses, but also to enhance their capacity to self-manage and to organise their workforce. This generates benefits for the family as a whole, for the local community and it strengthens social capital. 

These are outcomes that I know resonate with all of you here today.  UNDP is delighted to be partnering with the All-China Women’s Federation and Mary Kay to take business opportunities for ethnic minority women to the next level and with it, gender equality. We look forward to combining our respective areas of expertise to develop even more effective business that integrate principles of culture-based development, organisational capacity and community leadership.

It is my hope that, over time, our new partnership will provide opportunities for many of China’s bright young women to develop their own pathways to prosperity. With the tremendous talent and commitment of women leaders like all of you here, I have no doubt that we will succeed. 

Thank you very much.