There was no time to waste in these two weeks of debates and conferences of the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) at the United Nations headquarters. Aware that there is still a long way to go, the agenda was very intense. Priority issues were on the table, such as the importance of women occupying their rightful place in the changing labor market. The conclusions included evidence that they managed to outline a very clear roadmap to overcome barriers and make progress in gender equality.
“The goal of our time is parity”. These words spoken by António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, concisely summarize the spirit of this 61st session. Parity is understood from the political, cultural, economic and social standpoint, but achieving it won’t be easy: “This is a battle… a fight”, Guterres stated.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) 17 de marzo de 2017
The roadmap where the largest intergovernmental UN meeting on gender equality and women’s empowerment has arrived, in which representatives of the Member States, UN entities, BBVA Microfinance Foundation and NGOs from all regions of the world have taken part, establishes a number of urgent tasks, because there are many barriers. These include unfair employment conditions, a shadow economy, negative gender stereotypes, lack of promotion at work and unpaid work in the home environment; however, problems have not only been put on the table, but also solutions.
During this event they spoke about the need to promote measures to protect working women with children, education as a tool for inclusion, technology training, promotion of decent employment, measures against violence, equality policies in wages or the development of indigenous women.
After two weeks of intense work, there is a good feeling and there seems to be a strong commitment to pull in the same direction. “We’ve heard from all parties accepting the imperative of putting this knowledge into practice,” declared Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.
The final conclusions of the CSW61 are calling on the parties to make every effort and manage to economically empower all women in a world where the right to employment and labor rights are guaranteed. And a date has been set for that commitment: 2020, ten years before the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can be held accountable for what is expected of it. By that time, the battle for parity, which the head of the United Nations referred to will have to have been won.
Education and wealth
Education is another key factor for women to have equal conditions and improve their economic and social situation. In the UN campaign Global Education First Initiative it is considered a fundamental right and the main tool for sustainable development.
Once again, the data provide a broader view of reality. According to this campaign, if something as basic as all women completing elementary school is achieved, the number of early marriages would be reduced by 64%; the percentage of pregnancies at a premature age by 59%; and maternal mortality in childbirth by 66%. If all women reached secondary education, infant mortality would be reduced by 49% and more than 12 million children wouldn’t suffer stunted growth.
In the BBVAMF Group, the proportion of women who either only attended elementary school or failed to complete it has been reduced by 650 bps in five years. In general, higher quotas are being reached at the maximum level of education for each cohort.
But there’s more, education directly affects the income of the entrepreneurs that BBVAMF supports. The difference in the value of average sales of women who complete secondary education compared to those who have not reached that level is more than 11%. For men, this difference is about 14%. However, although there is a causal relationship between education and wealth, women are the ones who see their development conditioned to live in households with more people (3.14 versus 2.95 members, in the case of men with the same level of education).
The data reflect some advances that are unfortunately not enough. Women continue to suffer from poverty, lack of education, unemployment and an unfair labor market. In this context, an objective measurement of reality is shaping up as another of the best tools to work for gender equality. The challenge is to ensure that the roadmap that has started strongly marks its best performance in three years.