giovedì 16 Marzo 2017

“The Business of Parliament: Achieving Women’s Economic Empowerment and Why 30% Women Representation is Important”

“The Business of Parliament: Achieving Women’s Economic Empowerment and Why 30% Women Representation is Important”

Pia Locatelli

61st Session CSW, United Nations, NY



Thanks to all the organizers (League of Women Voters of the United States, Pan Pacific Southeast Asia Women’s Association, International Federation of Business and Professional Women, International Council of Jewish Women and World Jewish Congress) for convening this meeting.

The goal for today’s panel is to definitively stress the link and the bond between women’s economic empowerment and women’s participation and representation.

As indicated in the report of the UNSG High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, we have to cope with a fast-changing world and the political and economic uncertainty, which is dramatically increased by climate change, massive migration, the persistence of armed conflicts, terrorism, and political mysogeneous movements that explicitly curtail women’s activities: all factors which greatly impact on women and girls.

Then we have to take into consideration the discriminatory social norms which heavily limit women’s ability to find decent jobs on an equal footing with menincluding those related to which we have to add  poverty, ethnicity, disability, age, georaphy and migratory status; all of them are powerful obstacles to equal rights and opportunities for hundreds of millions of women.

Women perform the majority of unpaid household and care work. More generally, the gender differences both in unpaid work and in all types of paid work are large and persistent, reflecting constraints on women’s economic opportunities and outcomes.

Let me give you some figures to illustrate this situation: “Globally, only one in two women aged 15 and over is in paid employment compared with about three in four men. About 700 million fewer women than men of working age are in paid employment in 2016—1.27 billion women against 2 billion men. Even when women are paid, they tend to work
in jobs that reflect gender stereotypes and are characterized by relatively low earnings, poor working conditions and limited career-advancement opportunities.

If we look at the entrepreneurial world, women are less likely than men to own small or medium-sized enterprises—only 20 percentage of firms in the poorest countries have female owners. Women-owned enterprises tend to be smaller, are more likely to be home-based, and are often disadvantaged in their access to credit, resources and assets”.

This is the scenario.

Too many gaps and forms of multiple and intersecting discrimination persist, especially when it comes to consider women’s empowerment in the economic and political sectors.

What must we do to change in a different direction this fast-changing world?

We need to: eradicating adverse social norms; abolishing discriminatory laws; effectively reconciling work and family care; and closing gender gaps in access to financial, digital and property assets.

On a positive note, we all are aware that women’s political and economic empowerment is the right
thing to do and the smart thing to do.

Actually, our mission is somehow less complex if we rely on and share the way forward indicated in September 2015 when the Sustainable Development Agenda was adopted.

Within this framework, all stakeholders, especially Parliaments and Governments have a major role to play if we want to break down barriers to gender equality and to women’s economic empowerment, starting from  building gender balance in political participation and decision-making.

According to the IPU, as of June 2016 only 2 countries have 50 per cent or more women in Parliament in single or lower houses (Rwanda with 63.8 per cent and Bolivia with 53.1 per cent, although a greater number of countries have reached 30 per cent or more, compared to the past).

Research demonstrates that if women’s participation reaches 30 to 35 per cent (generally termed a “critical mass”), there is a real impact on political style and the content of decisions, and political life is revitalized. This critical mass is necessary in order to introduce a gender perspective and relevant goals to be met in order to assure true democracy.

More concretely, to close existing gaps, it is necessary: on the one hand, to put in place those measures which are instrumental to achieve UN SDG 8, that is “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, women and men, including young people ……including migrant women and those in precarious employment”.

Also, to leave no one behind, we are committed to the effective implementation of the obligations stemming from Articles 7-8 of the CEDAW Convention which speak of participation in political and public life . This must be considered as a conditio sine qua non.

More specifically, the CEDAW Committee indicates the factors impeding these rights of women: “….less access than men to information; In many nations, traditions and social and cultural stereotypes discourage women from exercising their right to vote. Many men influence or control the votes of women by persuasion or direct action, including voting on their behalf. Any such practices should be prevented; Other factors that in some countries inhibit women’s involvement in the public or political lives of their communities include restrictions on their freedom of movement or right to participate, prevailing negative attitudes towards women’s political participation, or a lack of confidence in and support for female candidates by the electorate….. “

IPU goes further and stresses that while it is important to increase the number of women in Parliaments around the world, it is also necessary for women, once in parliament, to use their positions of influence to make a difference in decision-making processes. IPU also stresses how women parliamentarians are changing politics and redefining political priorities to include women’s views and concerns.

But, as generally agreed upon, these tasks are not for women alone. Men and women must agree and acknowledge that women’s inclusion and equal participation in parliamentary processes not only benefits societies and the global community, but is also necessary for legitimate democracy.

In this way we modernize the institutional culture of parliament.

Finally, the recipe for Parliaments and Governments should consider to:

-Remove discriminatory legislation and provide a positive policy and legal environment that supports women’s economic empowerment;

-Establish non-discrimination, adequate minimum wages, equal pay for work of equal value, maternity protection and paid parental leave;

-Set and enforce effective laws to protect women from violence and exploitation at work;

-Create an enabling environment for decent work for all.

More specifically, Parliaments should:

-Ratify relevant ILO Conventions;

-Provide adequate support to enable women
to work productively, including by promoting investments in quality public care services and decent care jobs, social protection for all, and infrastructure that supports women’s safe access to economic opportunities;

-Investing in norm change campaigns and support community-level norm change programmes, including through education;

-Spearhead national processes for data collection and identification of national and local priorities;

Allow me to conclude by remarking that “Economic and human development costs of gender gaps are enormous, and as are the potential gains from closing them”.