15 October 2015
Experts Discuss Gender Equality Policies at Second Committee
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Researchers and experts discussed policy solutions for achieving gender equality and sustainable development, during a side event organized by UN Women on the margins of UN General Assembly's (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

UN Women14 October 2015: Researchers and experts discussed policy solutions for achieving gender equality and sustainable development, during a side event organized by UN Women on the margins of UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

The panel discussion on ‘Transforming economies, realizing rights: A policy agenda to achieve substantive equality for women and realize sustainable development’ took place on 14 October 2015 in New York, US.

James Heintz, Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and co-author of ‘Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016,’ explained how macroeconomic policies affect genders differently, particularly those that focus on fast growth and gross domestic product (GDP), since GDP excludes household work. Heintz said: household work is women’s biggest contribution to the economy; overall, women’s unpaid work contributes to 20% of GDP, or US$16 trillion; and “recognizing and valuing” unpaid work, as called for under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, is not enough. He argued that unpaid work needs to be reduced and redistributed, and social policies should be considered an inherent part of macroeconomic policies, not a byproduct.

Ruth Nyambura, African Biodiversity Network, highlighted that in Sub-Saharan Africa, 75% of agricultural workers are women and 70% of the food produced is by women, but women are also 60% of the chronically hungry. She said discussions on hunger in Africa are currently framed around the lack of access to technology. Technology is portrayed as the main solution for eradicating hunger, she said, just as lack of credit or of irrigative services were portrayed as causes of hunger in the 1980s, during the period of structural adjustment plans. However, she stressed, these perspectives do not correspond to the reality on the ground; real problems include the fact that low-income farmers need to invest in agriculture three times more than their governments. She also cautioned against the current framing of trade, in which the narrative that more trade liberalization and more open borders will solve the problems is obscuring the fact that the global market caused the climate crisis, which will make 50% of agriculture impossible to farm in Africa by 2020. Another incomplete narrative she deconstructed was that of “Africa Rising,” which refers to the middle class, while inequality and women’s poverty levels are increasing on the continent. Summarizing that those producing the food are not catered to and those who produced the emissions are not held accountable, she called for climate justice.

Martha Alter Chen, Harvard Kennedy School and International Coordinator of Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), said most of the working poor, especially women, are employed in the informal economy, which represents more than 50% of the non-agricultural employment in developing countries. She identified their common constraints: the lack of legal identity as workers; the lack of legal rights; the lack of social protection; and the lack of voice. Noting that women are heavily concentrated as home workers and domestic workers, she stressed the need to implement International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 177 on Home Workers and Convention 189 on Domestic Workers, which recognize their rights to: organize; social protection, including occupational health and safety; fair remuneration; and worker benefits. She said informal workers need to be made visible in the data and invited at the policy table.

Radhika Balakrishnan, Rutgers University, called for: strong regulations of the financial and the private sectors; gender-responsive budgets; gender-disaggregated indicators; and the democratization of macroeconomic policy to address wealth, in addition to income.

Taking the floor, Benin, Brazil, Ethiopia, the EU, Iran, Israel, Liberia, Rwanda and Slovenia discussed national policies, programs and achievements with regard to women’s empowerment and gender equality.[Concept Note] [IISD RS Sources] [Second Committee Side Events] [Webcast] [Event Details]

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