Friday, February 13, 2015

The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all

Today, hundreds of millions of women will wake up to face yet another day of backbreaking work for little or no reward. Although their labour – in and outside the home – is vital to the global economy, to sustainable development, and for the wellbeing of society at large, it is undervalued and for the most part invisible. 
While public outrage grows at the fact that the richest 1% of the world’s population owns almost half the world’s wealth, and even bastions of international finance such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) are increasingly talking about the corrosive effect of economic inequality, the humanmade injustice of women’s economic inequality remains a pervasive crisis that is largely absent from the political spotlight and inequality debates.
 It seems obvious that women should enjoy the same rights as men in every aspect of life, and indeed international conventions and national legislation in many (though by no means all) countries grant equal rights to women. However, realising these rights remains a distant dream, with women still being economically unequal to men by virtually every measure. What’s more, while the situation is unfair and unacceptable for women everywhere, it is poor women in developing countries who bear the biggest share of the costs, and are constantly pushed to the bottom of the economic pile. 
Women’s economic inequality is not inevitable. Exploitation of women’s work prevails, as this briefing reveals, because of the unjust politics shaping our economy, and because it is founded upon (and further drives) wider gender discrimination in society. Manifestations of the latter include, among others, the fact that one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime and that more women than men are concentrated in lowest paid and valued jobs. 
Until now, the international community has all too often approached the issue of women’s economic inequality as if extending a helping hand to women – such as through microcredit or corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR) – would solve the problem altogether. But by doing so it has systematically neglected the fact that the vast amount of women’s work, which is either rewarded poorly or not rewarded at all, is being used to subsidise the world economy and fuel unequal and unsustainable growth. To end poverty and ensure prosperous lives for all, this broken and highly dysfunctional system needs transformational change. 
It is therefore crucial that women‘s work – both in and outside home – is recognised, valued and rewarded fairly. It is, without doubt, a matter of efficiency and sustainability; but most importantly it is a matter of justice and human rights.

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