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Gender equality will not come for free: women and girls deserve more than business as usual in Addis Ababa

25 June 2015 - Chiara Capraro and Kasia Staszewska

While a significant number of governments have championed an ambitious standalone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the negotiation on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), negotiations on financing struggle to reach agreement on issues that are fundamental to women

Alhousseiny Dicko

Last week governments met in New York to draft the outcome document for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD) which is taking place in Addis Ababa in mid-July. Negotiations continue as governments struggle to agree on key issues such as tax, a critical source of financing for development commitments, human rights and gender equality.

The Addis Ababa conference is of crucial importance to women. The FFD will define how achieving the SDGs will be financed. Although no specific costing for achieving gender equality and women’s rights has yet been calculated within the SDGs context, in the case of MDGs the gender equality financing gap in low income countries was projected at US$83 billion in 2015. With the new development agenda being universal, and far more ambitious than the MDGs, the costs are only likely to increase.

Meeting the costs

Yet it is not only the quantity of funds that matters but how funds are raised and who receives them.  As women and men occupy different roles in society, different sources of money impact them differently. Across the world women carry out at least twice as much unpaid care work as men, often invisible and unrecognised. At work, women are worse off too. According to recent research by ActionAid, if women were paid as much as men and had the same access to jobs they could be US$17 trillion better off. Governments need to value women and their unpaid work when thinking about economic policy.

The FFD process can and should address major structural issues such as tax dodging which deprives developing countries of far more than they receive in aid. Lack of revenue forces governments to spend less on essential public services. This can have a disproportionate effect on women in poverty if, for example, you consider childcare or support for survivors of gender based violence - both services that are mainly utilised by women.  Governments should take the opportunity offered by Addis to accelerate progress on global tax reform that works for developing countries.

Aid will continue to be a critical source of finance for SDGs, especially for the least developed countries, but the share of aid supporting women’s needs is still too low. According to OECD GENDERNET in 2012-13 only 5% of aid had gender equality as a ‘principal’ objective. Governments must recommit to meet the long-standing target of devoting 0.7% of GDP to aid and increase the share of aid dedicated to gender equality, while investing more in supporting the crucial work done by women’s rights organisations on the ground.

To date, huge emphasis in the FFD negotiations has been on the role of the private sector in financing development, especially multinational companies. While the private sector has a role to play in creating decent jobs and ensuring equal pay for women, the footprint of many companies has often been harmful to women’s rights at work. What we need is to move away from voluntary corporate social responsibility commitments towards a legally binding regulation to make sure companies are accountable. Such an outcome, combined with paying their taxes in full, would send a strong signal that the private sector is serious about supporting sustainable development, gender equality and women’s rights.

A good start

The current draft of the Addis Ababa Accord starts well by stating a commitment towards gender equality and women’s rights but falls short on staying true to this vision throughout. Lack of recognition of the structural causes of gender inequality, such as the disproportionate responsibility of unpaid care borne by women and girls, risks a focus only on what women can do for the economy rather than how the economy must work in a way that supports rights for all.

As governments continue their discussions, they must reach a consensus on financing methods that can really make a difference for gender equality and women’s rights for years to come. The vision for what needs to change is clear - now the money must follow.

This blog first appeared on the Guardian

About the authors

Chiara Capraro (Christian Aid) and Kasia Staszewska (ActionAid UK) are Co-chairs of the UK Gender and Development Working Group on Economic Justice

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