ECONOMIC empowerment for women requires addressing cross-cutting issues such as gender stereotypes, discriminatory legislation, gender-based violence and unequal access to education and decision-making positions, says Margaret Mensah-Williams, president of the IPU Bureau of Women Parliamentarians.
Mensah-Williams was speaking at the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women under the theme ‘Empowering parliaments to empower women – making the economy work for women’ in the United States recently. It was attended by close to 140 members of parliament from 47 countries focusing on parliamentary strategies to advance women’s economic empowerment.
“We need to use data out there and campaign for lifting discrimination. Having 173 countries with discriminatory legislation can no longer be tolerated. We can’t tolerate either having only 23.3 percent of women in parliament. We need to have more women in decision-making positions as this provides the ground for women’s economic empowerment. This is something the IPU has been promoting for many years now, and we will continue doing together with all of you and partners such as UN Women.
“Parliaments must review their labour and social policies to promote equality at work. We need available and affordable childcare. Also, we must ensure that unpaid care work is shared between men and women if we are to ensure equality in paid work. This is key to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, and in particular target 5.4. We also need legislation on equal pay. Social protection coverage must cut across all sectors, including those mostly occupied by women – such as the care economy and the informal sector – but also for self-employed women. We must ensure work is a safe place for women and combat sexual harassment. Also, measures for women to be at the leadership of companies are required,” Mensah-Williams said.
She also said that there was a need to promote women’s ability to hold purse strings and make economic decisions so as to own land, access credit, invest freely, save and start businesses.
“Specific, targeted measures for women’s financial inclusion are key. Financial services must be accessible and affordable, but women also need support to increase their chances to access available opportunities. Budgets and fiscal policies must also be scrutinised through a gender lens so that they deliver for women.”
The session concluded that women, especially those with disabilities require attention by legislators, Government officials and gender advocates to ensure they are represented in parliaments.
“All legislation for women’s economic empowerment requires strong oversight from parliamentarians to ensure that laws passed are implemented, resourced, monitored and that they deliver for women. Data collection, in particular gender disaggregated data, are key to inform our decisions and promote gender-sensitive reform. This way we can also ensure accountability. Partnerships are a must. We need partnerships among women, partnerships with men and also with financial institutions and civil society organisations.”
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