Governments Need to Ensure Women Do Not Bear the Brunt of the Economic Crisis

Governments need to provide social protection and promote green jobs for women through alternative investments that provide decent employment, such as public-private and community-related partnerships, according to representatives from governments, the United Nations, civil society and academia, who met in New York today to discuss how to respond to the impacts of the economic crisis addressing gender issues.

The panel Economic Recovery and Sustainable Development with Gender Equality was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the Permanent Missions of Australia, Finland and Nicaragua to the UN. It addressed strategies to soften the impact of the economic crisis on women, who are at risk of being hit harder than men. In developing countries, when families can only send one child to school, girls are generally kept home; when families have only limited money and food, girls tend to be fed fewer meals, panelists said.

“There cannot be economic recovery or sustainable development without the full empowerment and integration of women in all levels of economic, social and cultural activities,” said Alberto José Guevara Obregón, Nicaragua’s Minister of Finance and Public Credit.

Panelists also raised concerns about an increased number of girls dropping out of school, higher levels of violence against women and girls, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and HIV and AIDS prevalence rates.

“Violence against women is a serious global problem, and severely limits women’s contribution to social and economic development,” said Gary Quinlan, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN. “We fear the economic crisis will worsen the problem of violence against women — so tackling violence and investing in women need to be given priority in our response to the crisis.”

Participants also encouraged governments to provide job training and access to finance to women, in addition to promoting green jobs as a means of enabling women to enter male-dominated sectors that offer decent employment. Such jobs relate to women working on climate change adaptation: new and renewable energy sources, energy conservation, disaster prevention and reforestation.

“Women’s contribution and participation are needed in tackling the economic and financial crises. We need to ensure that actions related to economic recovery are inclusive and geared towards more equal societies,” said Jarmo Viinanen, Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN.

As more people lose their jobs, salaries and remittances slump, and as the cost of living increases, poor families are at risk of falling deeper into poverty.

“Women are watching. The challenge is to make sure they do not bear the brunt of this crisis, making up for lost income and public services by taking on a greater burden of unpaid care work,” said Ines Alberdi, UNIFEM Executive Director.

“It is always poor women and men who are paying the heaviest price of the bad governance and greed that has led to the ongoing economic and financial crisis,” said Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Director of UNDP’s Democratic Governance Group. “This crisis presents an opportunity that we cannot fail to seize in creating decent jobs, social safety nets, and a space where poor women and men can become victors and agents of change in the transformation of the current financial architecture.”

The time is now for all partners in human development to live up to their commitments to the poorest and most vulnerable in order to ensure that the global crisis of today does not hamper the development prospects of tomorrow.


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