Topic I: Economic Empowerment of Women and Girls
Gender-equality is number 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals that the UN hopes will be achieved by 2030. A key requirement that has to be fulfilled to reach this goal is the opportunity to participate in the marketplace to reach economic independence for both genders. However, reality falls short in providing equal opportunities. According to the UN, around 750 million girls before the age of 18 are married off, in many cases leading to a halt in their educational development which later translates to the inability to access the labor market. This, in turn, means that these women cannot become household earners, own land and reach economic independence.
A major contributor to the lack of women´s participation in the economy is the incredible amount of unpaid work women undertake. A 2015 report by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that 75% of all unpaid work in the world is performed by women. Further, the report estimates that „unpaid work being undertaken by women today amounts to as much as $10 trillion of output per year, roughly equivalent to 13 percent of global GDP“1.
UN Women together with other UN bodies such as the UNCDF and the UNDP lead the Inclusive and Equitable Local Development Programme (IELD) to create local structural changes and encourage economic participation. The initiative works both with the private and the public sector to expand economic opportunities and encourage more investment in women´s labor participation.
Through this initiative and many other programmes, UN Women strives to reach out to the women most in need and empower them economically on their journey to reach gender equality.
1McKinsey Global Institute ‚The Power of Parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 Trillion to global growth‘ 2015. page 2
Topic II: Fighting Gender-based Violence
According to the UN, violence against women and girls is “one of the most widespread human rights violations”. The root of this particular kind of violence can be found in gendered social structures rather than individual and random acts. The United Nations define gender-based violence in the General Assembly Resolution 48/104 from 1993 as “any act of gender-based violence that result in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”. Furthermore, gender-based violence underlines the relationship between females’ status in society and their increased vulnerability to violence. There are multiple forms of gender-based violence which include: crimes committed in the name of “honor”, sexual trafficking, domestic partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, and emotional/psychological violence.
There are particular groups of women, such as members of ethnic minorities, HIV-positive women, migrants, women with disabilities and women affected by armed conflicts, that may be more vulnerable to violence than others. Often, the offenders include family members, friends, the State and also strangers. Gender-based violence against women takes place in multiple public and private settings, including one’s own home, schools, streets or other open and public places. Refugee camps and other areas related to armed conflicts are also often sites of violence.
The main strategies of the United Nations to end gender-based violence, especially against women and girls (of August 2018) include: investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment, introducing or reforming legislation, ensuring holistic multisectoral policies and national plans of actions, promoting primary prevention, conducting research and securing resources/ gender-responsive budgeting.