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Closing gender gaps and empowering women in the economy: still a long way to go

23 September 2016 - Christian Aid has welcomed a new United Nations report calling for swift action to accelerate the ‘limited’ progress made in expanding economic opportunities for women, but the charity warns there is still a long way to go.

Released by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, the report calls for concrete and urgent steps to close gender gaps, tackle constraints facing women in the world of work, and empower them to advance economically. Its publication marks the first anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Christian Aid’s Gender Policy Adviser Sophie Efange commented: “This much-needed report reminds us just how far we need to go to achieve the full and equal participation of women in society and in the economy. This is particularly true for women living in poverty.

“A year on from the SDGs, the ‘business-as-usual model’ has failed to address the manifest injustice of gender inequality. However, we believe the report does not go far enough in outlining some of the responsibilities of the private sector, or the broader macroeconomic barriers women face.

“There remains a huge need to acknowledge, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work, improve opportunities for women in the informal economy, and ensure they have access to financial, property and digital resources. It is good the report recognises this.

“Yet, despite focusing on changing in-house business cultures and practices, the report fails to address the need for corporations to pay their fair share of tax – including in poor nations where so many women are struggling for economic advancement.”

She continued: “Tax revenues are critical for helping developing nations to fund critical services such as healthcare, education and childcare, all of which are vital for enabling women to participate fully in the economy and the workforce.

“Failing to call out the unsavoury tax practices of many multinational corporations also calls into question the extent to which we can ensure decent work for millions of women worldwide.”

Despite some progress in reducing gender inequalities over the past two decades, the pace of change ‘has been far too slow’, since ‘powerful obstacles’ still block equal rights and opportunities for hundreds of millions of women, according to the UN report.

Hundreds of millions of women work informally without social and labour protection; many are in occupations that reflect gender stereotypes and are characterised by relatively low earnings, poor conditions and limited opportunities to advance.

Women also take on approximately three times more unpaid employment than men, and perform the majority of unpaid household and care work, the report says.

Ms Efange commented: “Christian Aid supports the UN panel’s acknowledgement that the problem is rooted in unaddressed gender inequalities.

"We firmly welcome the panel’s solutions to the structural and social barriers that hinder women from having real power over their economic futures, rather than simply advocating for greater inclusion of women in the workforce.

“It is absolutely critical that the panel uses its influence and the momentum from this highly-anticipated report to forge alliances with an array of key decision-makers, to galvanise their work, especially the private sector.”

Established in January 2016, the high-level panel aims to make the SDGs a reality for women and to create stronger, more inclusive economies. Its members include Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities. The report was produced with the support of the UK Government.

ENDS

If you would like further information, please contact Tomilola Ajayi on 020 7523 2427 or tajayi@christian-aid.org. (24-hour press duty phone: 07850 242950.)


Notes to editors: 

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. 

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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