Detours Ahead for Gender Equality in International Development?

There are two new reports (and one brief declaration) from the United Nations family of which we should all be aware – as they affect women’s economic empowerment efforts internationally. First, I’m sure that we’re all aware that 2015 is the year that the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals were to have been achieved. While much has been accomplished, those goals have not been achieved, and the focus is now shifting toward SDGs: Sustainable Development Goals.

roadblocks1Last year, the “Women’s Major Group,” one of nine groups involved in the process of developing the SDGs, issued a statement highlighting “8 Red Flags,” or shortcomings, of the SDGs, stating that they lack “real ambition for the urgent transformational change that the world needs to achieve gender equality.” And in late June, during negotiations for the “zero draft” of the SDGs that will be discussed at a UN Summit this fall, the Women’s Major Group issued a Ten Red Flags declaration highlighting areas that need to be strengthened in UN efforts moving forward, including that:

  • Gender equality and the human rights of women and girls must be recognized as a cross-cutting issue critical for the success of the post-2015 development agenda;
  • Commitments to human rights and inclusivity must be strengthened; and
  • Commitments to civil society and major group participation must be strengthened.

A good summary of the history of this issue is contained in the recently-published discussion paper, “Accelerating Gender Equality Through the Post 2015 Development Agenda,” from the Australian National Committee of UN Women.

There’s a civil society organization, beyond2015.org, with over 1,000 NGO members in more than 130 countries that have joined forces to ensure a strong framework for poverty alleviation and empowerment moving forward from the expiration of the MDGs.

Thirdly, every few years the United Nations publishes a look at the progress of the world’s women with respect to their health, education and legal empowerment. The latest in that series, Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights, was recently published. The previous reports are archived on this page.

The UN has also published data compendia (every five years, from 1990 to 2010) on The World’s Women. These reports, which contain a wealth of statistical data from around the world, are archived on this page and are well worth adding to your womenabling research shelf.

New UN Women Report Published

Every five years or so, the United Nations publishes a compendium of facts, statistics and analysis of the status of women around the world. These Progress of the World’s Women reports share statistics related to education, legal justice, social and political empowerment, and economic empowerment. They are truly go-to reports that deserve a spot on every womenabler’s reference shelf.fig.4.6-1

The latest report has recently been published. Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights features an interactive web portal and downloadable chapters, some very detailed (see picture at right) infographics, as well as the full report.

Some of what’s available in this report:

  • A discussion of the negative impact on women’s rights that has resulted from the rise of extremism around the world;
  • The notion that connecting economic and social policy is key to increasing human potential and equal rights (we would agree);
  • Far fewer detailed country-level tables (which we are disappointed by, but they may be archived somewhere); and
  • A listing of ten priorities for public action, including “create more and better jobs for women” (but no mention of economic empowerment through entrepreneurship).

For a list and links to past reports on the Progress of the World’s Women, visit Womenable’s Womenabler Reference Library page. or UN Women’s Progress of the World’s Women page. Finally, here’s a handy link to the 2015 report Executive Summary.

#MakeItHappen on March 8

March 8 marks the celebration of International Women’s Day. The observance began in the early 1900’s to support equal rights for women – including protesting employment discrimination, ending World War I, and voting rights. In early years the celebration date varied somewhat from country to country, but came to be marked on March 8 after a widespread strike in Russia on that date in 1917. And while, in early years the celebration was associated with socialism, its appeal has broadened and is now an official holiday in over a dozen countries. (Read a short history of the day here.)centredinternationalwomensday

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen.” The United Nations has a somewhat wordier theme this year: “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It!”.

There are now nearly 500 events registered in nearly 40 countries on the International Women’s Day information hub as of now, with over 1,000 expected by March 8. Check out the list and find out about an event near you – or organize your own.

And, don’t forget to share your #womensday activities on social media using the suggested hashtags: #makeithappen, #womensday, #internationalwomensday, #IWD2015, or #PaintItPurple. (Why purple? find out here.) Share photos, too. For photographic inspiration, check out this photo gallery assembled by Thomson Reuters.

Here’s to an inspiring International Women’s Day, during which you will make something happen!

The Envelope Please…

woman_silouette_ribbonIt’s a new year … and the beginning of awards season. In the world of entertainment, it’ll soon be time for the BAFTA Awards, the Eurovision Song Contest, and the Academy Awards (Oscars) in Hollywood. The call is also out for outstanding women business owners – so why not consider nominating yourself or another deserving woman entrepreneur for one of these awards:

  • The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: Launched in 2006 by Cartier, the Women’s Forum, McKinsey and Company and the INSEAD business school, these awards focus on start-up enterprises in five world regions. Nominations are open now through the end of February at this link.
  • The International Alliance for Women’s World of Difference Awards: This award recognizes a diverse group of women in corporate, entrepreneurial, public sector and social enterprises who are making a difference to their communities. Nominations are open through February 15. Learn more here.
  • The l’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science program recognizes accomplished women in scientific endeavor, as well as helps younger researchers and supports non-profit organizations focused on women in science or “beauty for all.” To learn more, visit the submitting your project or 2014 awardees pages.

If your idea for recognition is giving back to other women, then consider signing up to be a Global Community Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment, a program offered by UN Women. You can learn more and apply to be a part of it at this link. The sign-up period ends on January 29.

Three other high-profile international awards of note happen later in the year. So mark your calendars and be on the lookout for these awards opportunities:

  • The Anita Borg Institute’s Women of Vision ABIE Awards: This organization, focused on connecting, mentoring and recognizing women in computing, bestows a number of annual awards, including an entrepreneurship award. However, nominations for this award are open in December and January, and are awarded at their annual conference in May of each year.
  • Enterprising Women magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year awards recognize women business owners of accomplishment in a number of business revenue levels. Nominations are open late in the year and awards are given at the magazine’s annual summit and gala in March of each year. Click here to read more about the just-announced 2015 awardees.
  • Nominations for the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award have likewise just closed. The annual award, recognizing enterprising spirit and determination in the vein of “La Grande Dame de la Champagne” Madame Clicquot, is now awarded in 27 countries, typically bestowed at a gala event in May of each year. Learn more about the award here.

Empowering Women Through Internet Access

A new report recently released by Intel adds to the body of research focusing on gaps in technology availability and usage by gender, adding to the evidence base that access to information technology increases empowerment, education, and economic well-being.
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The report, Women and the Web, combines interviews with 2,200 women in four countries (Egypt, India, Mexico, and Uganda) with data from a variety of other sources and shares the following observations:

  • Gender barriers to technology are real. On average across the developing world, nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet.
  • Bridging the Internet gender gap can boost women’s income and income potential. Across the surveyed countries, nearly half of respondents used the Web to search for and apply for a job, and 30 percent had used the Internet to earn additional income.
  • Use of the Internet also increases women’s sense of empowerment. More than 70% of women surveyed who are online say that it is “liberating” and 85% say it “provides more freedom.”

The 104-page report concludes with a series of recommendations for action to bridge the gender technology divide. Read a news release highlighting other findings HERE, and download and read the full report HERE.

Other earlier reports on this topic may also be of interest:

Finally, womenablers may also be interested in the Research Links page of the Anita Borg Institute, which focuses mainly on research on women in technology, but is nonetheless a great resource to bookmark for future reference.

A Focus on Frameworks

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, would you, so why are so many efforts to provide greater economic empowerment for women undertaken without a strategic framework? A rhetorical question, we know, but we’d like to call attention to the fact that folks are starting to realize that a framework for action can make governments and other actors more accountable, provide benchmarks and targets against which to chart progress, and give the women’s business community and other important stakeholders a soapbox for advocacy.

We write this because we’ve come across several new strategic framework reports we want to make sure all of you womenablers out there take a look at, bookmark, and file away for future reference and/or action.

First, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has published a Gender at the Heart of ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development): Strategic Framework on Gender Mainstreaming and Women’s Empowerment. While it does not focus much on enterprise development, gender equality, policy action and stakeholder engagement are central tenets covered in the publication. You might also want to take a look at their 30 second public service video, “Empower Women, Empower the Future,” which illustrates how a girl’s future can change with education rather than early marriage. (Puts us in mind of the excellent Girl Effect video.)

The UN agency in the Asia Pacific region, ESCAP, has also recently published a report looking at efforts that could be undertaken in that region to “strengthen national mechanisms” for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Learn more at THIS LINK. Sounds like a framework to us!

Next, there’s a new mid-term assessment of where things stand vis-a-vis MDG3, the Millennium Development Goal related to women’s empowerment. This AWID review of the Dutch MDG3 Fund shows the ways in which targeted investments can really make a difference in organizational capacity and women’s increased participation in advocacy and the political process, which has a ripple effect in other areas of women’s economic empowerment.

And, finally, we would be remiss if we did not mention and remind you of the Roadmap to 2020 report, spearheaded and published by Quantum Leaps in 2010, which focused on what women’s entrepreneurship stakeholders in the United States should do to move the agenda forward. It joins the October 2003 Prime Minister’s Task Force report in Canada and the May 2003 Strategic Framework report in the United Kingdom as a trilogy of policy and program recommendations to be undertaken in a developed economy context (which, truth be told, is not terribly different from areas of focus in developing economies).

The Most Womenabling News of 2010

In our year-end e-newsletter, rather than summarizing the latest womenabling news and providing womenablers everywhere with insights to educate, enlighten and empower your efforts, we’re ending the year by compiling what we feel are the most interesting and relevant activities that have taken place in the field of women’s enterprise development in 2010. Repeated here, and in no particular order, are what we see as the ten most noteworthy trends and events of the year:

  1. The establishment of UN Women: It’s been talked about and touted for a number of years, and this year it finally happened: the merging of heretofore disparate UN activities for and about women into one “super agency” for women: the “UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women,”  otherwise known as UN Women. This entity will oversee efforts formerly under the purview of the UN’s Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Heading the new combined entity is former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. What do you need to know about the new agency and how you can engage with it? Read this.
  2. Expansion of women’s empowerment measurements: Where does women’s economic empowerment stand? Some of the most well-known measurements of women’s empowerment include the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap reports, the UN’s GDI and GEM measurements, and the OECD’s Gender, Institutions and Development Data Base. However, all of these include several other measures (including health, education and political participation) as well as economic empowerment and, with respect to the latter, focus on women as workers rather than business owners. There are the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s reports on women and entrepreneurship but, sadly, one has not been published since 2007. This year, though, saw the addition of two new kids on the block, and both of these indicators focus entirely on economic empowerment, and specifically on entrepreneurship. They are the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, and a new GenderCLIR methodology for BEE assessment from USAID/Booz Allen Hamilton.
  3. A picture’s worth a thousand words: The International Museum of Women launched a powerful online exhibition this year, Economica: Women and the Global Economy. One project within the exhibition is Picturing Power & Potential, a juried photo exhibit which proves the adage and is well worth a look. Bookmark and return to the site as they add to it in the coming year.
  4. Recognition of “The Female Factor” in some media circles, but …: The International Herald Tribune has written a number of compelling articles about women’s empowerment issues this year as a part of their series, “The Female Factor.” And Canada’s Globe and Mail launched a national conversation about Women in Power during Women’s History Month in Canada (October). Despite this nice coverage, however, a recent study, Who Makes the News? The Global Media Monitoring Report 2010, finds that women’s voices and stories – especially about economic issues – are still largely untold in the news media.
  5. Second interval review for MDGs: In 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, 189 world leaders planted an ambitious flag in the ground, agreeing on eight Millennium Development Goals aimed at eliminating world poverty by 2015. (Our favorite: #3, gender equity.) A “second interval” review of the progress being made on meeting those goals was held this year, including the publication of an MDG report and the convening of an MDG summit. The bottom line? Progress is indeed being made, but in many cases is uneven, affecting some populations and not others. Here’s a report card showing some of the details. While this review shows that much remains to be done to meet the 2015 deadline, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.” (William Shakespeare)
  6. Progress stalled for WED in UK: Last year, in our year-end top trends E-newsletter, we noted the implosion of Prowess – the UK’s key advocacy organization for women’s economic empowerment. Well, things have gone from bad to worse in the UK for women’s enterprise development with the election of a   Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government. As  feared/expected, one of the new government’s first acts was declaring  that Business Link and Regional Development Agencies would be phased  out, in favor of Local Enterprise Partnerships. It remains to be seen how this will impact focused/tailored business support services such as the women’s business centre pilot programme, but our guess is that it won’t be positive.
  7. A new ED and Chair for NWBC: Another issue we followed with interest last year (though it did not make our top ten list) was stalled activity at the National Women’s Business Council in the wake of the 2008 US presidential election. Well, things are starting to move once again, with the hiring of a new executive director, Dana Lewis, and the appointment of a new chair, Donna James. Filling Council seats and revving up Council activities should commence in 2011. Women’s business advocates in the US are relieved.
  8. Quinquennial census of women-owned firms in the US: Say what you will about the growing hegemony of political and economic power worldwide, the United States still rocks when it comes to measuring the number and economic power of women-owned businesses. The  2007 quinquennial economic census of women-owned firms was published this year. Womenable summarizes the key trends for you in this blogpost.
  9. Progress in procurement: Doing business with the US government is getting easier for women-owned businesses. Finally, after a ten-year wait, a women-owned business procurement program is finally going to be launched by the SBA early next year. Not content to wait for this to happen, late in 2008 Women Impacting Public Policy, with the support of American Express OPEN, launched a “Give Me 5%” initiative (which refers to the gov’t-wide spending goal for women-owned firms) to educate women business owners on how to do business with the federal government. Where do things stand with respect to meeting that 5% goal? Federal spending with women-owned firms stands at 3.7% as of FY2009, up from 2.4% a decade earlier but still well short of the goal.
  10. Making market connections: There are two new initiatives poised to help women business owners globally make significant market connections with another important customer: large corporations. First is WEConnect International, an organization that was founded in 2009 but started to get its sea legs this year with the launch of WEConnect Europe and an event in London this October. WEConnect’s goal is to make it easier for large corporations to find women-owned business suppliers and for women-owned firms to learn how to do business with large corporations. And speaking of large corporations, one of them – Coca-Cola (ranked 404 on Fortune’s Global 500 largest companies) – announced a “reach for the stars” goal at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative conference. Coke’s “5 by 20” project aims to draw 5 million women into its Micro Distribution Center program in Africa and elsewhere by the year 2020.