The members of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel (UNHLP) on women’s economic empowerment are in Ahmedabad for a two-day global consultation hosted by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
The consultation will allow panel members to hear from woman workers and entrepreneurs about the issues they have faced and the solutions they have implemented. Co-chaired by the president of Costa Rica and the CEO of IKEA, Switzerland, the panel brings together people from all strata of society in a bid to mobilise global action to strengthen women’s participation in economic activity. The panel will submit a global report providing recommendations by governments, private players, civil society and the UN system to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for the economic empowerment of women.
Speaking to FE, Renana Jhabvala, national coordinator of SEWA and member of the UNHLP, said, “Many women are working as part of the international supply chain, but their work is not recognised. Artisans from Gujarat are now making products sold in brand outlets throughout the world. We are approaching businesses, and have also formed companies for artisans such as Ruaab SEWA in Delhi. Products made there are supplied to stores like Walmart, Gap, etc.” She added that the panel was working towards taking up the issues of these women into the consultancy level, to include them in policy-making at the community level. Elaborating on the need to include large corporations within the framework, Rebecca
Tavares, representative of UN Women India, told FE, “We are exploring opportunities for large corporations to add women to their value chain, to focus on affirmative procurement in a bid to stimulate and strengthen. Globally, about 40 million people enter the workforce each year, a quarter of them are in India. The sheer number of people that wants jobs is a special challenge for India.”
The panel was first announced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier this year, in a bid to place women’s economic empowerment at the top of the global agenda. “Despite the legal guarantees for employment, women’s participation in the economy in India continues to remain low, and it is in fact declining, due to structural barriers that prevent women from entering and growing in the workforce on equal terms. These women are not asking for much, they are just asking for the law to be enforced so that they are protected…” Tavares added.