“Investing in women is not only the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do.”
How many times have we heard this statement before? Probably more than once, and definitely from more than one aid official. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it on International Women's Day, and several women in power — from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to U.N. Development Program chief Helen Clark to U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening — have repeated it many times.
|Women at a camp for internally displaced persons in El Fasher, North Sudan|
But how far has the international community really gone to live up to this? That’s an open debate that will continue this year ahead of and following International Women's Day on March 8, whose theme this year is "Equality for women is progress for all.”
Countless high-level events, discussions and initiatives are popping up aimed at strengthening the status of women around the world. Here are our top 5 picks:
1. Women and girls in post-2015 debate
The U.N. General Assembly is opening a high-level event on the contributions of women, youth and civil society to the post-2015 development agenda. The two-day event, which kicked off on Thursday, aims to address a number of issues, such as how member states can ensure the rights and needs of women and young people in the post-2015 development agenda, and what measures, accountability and transparency mechanisms can be taken and put in place to ensure their engagement in its monitoring and implementation. This event will be followed next week by the Annual Commission on the Status of Women, which will discuss the various achievements made on the MDGs on women and girls, and the challenges that remain. The discussions are expected to cover a wide array of issues, from girls' access to education to women's access to employment and decent work.
Have a question on how to end forced child marriages, or why women empowerment is so important? Several international aid organizations are hosting Twitter chats on Friday to tackle these issues. Pathfinder International, Girls Not Brides and U.N. Women will discuss the challenges women and girls face everyday, and share stories of courage of those who stand up against inequality. Global Impact, CARE, World Vision USA, Plan USA and the International Center for Research on Women, meanwhile, will engage netizens on a wide range of issues, from providing protection for victims of violence to access to education. Bread for the World Institute would also like to hear your thoughts on the question: "What can we absolutely not leave out of the 2015 Hunger Report on women's economic empowerment to end hunger?"
3. A global gender center
U.S.-based nonprofit RTI International is bringing in experts from different disciplines under its newly launched RTI Global Gender Center. The aim is to build on their expertise and spur collaborations across disciplines and across countries to produce research that could potentially influence practice and policy by different governments and institutions in addressing gender inequality around the world. "There is a movement underway to focus on gender at multiple levels, including education, health, policy, and research. But this movement is in its nascence and is still fragmented and territorial among institutions," said Wendee Wechsberg, the center's director. "We formed this center to offer a united global front to address gender inequities.”
4. New fund for female entrepreneurs
The International Finance Corp., the World Bank's private sector arm and the Goldman Sachs Foundation are together launching a $600 million fund for women-owned SMEs, mainly in Morocco and East Africa. The partners are initially investing a total of $132 million, and expect to get the remaining funds from public and private investors. The fund will operate under the new Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility managed by IFC and target 100,000 female entrepreneurs from developing countries. Goldman Sachs will also provide services for female borrowers in the form of grants. Want to know more? Check out Devex Impact reporter Adva Saldinger’s live reports from New York.
Last but not least, Devex is launching #SheBuilds, a month-long campaign that seeks to change the conversation around women and girls from recipient to actor. Through 4 separate topics, we will showcase new ways that women are creating healthy, stable and thriving communities, contributing to economic growth by participating more in local and global business, coming up with innovative ideas to empower themselves and play a larger role in development efforts, and preparing to nurture the next generation of women leaders so they will foster an environment of peace and prosperity for all. And it’s not just about what women are doing for themselves, but how the development community is supporting their efforts, for instance by mainstreaming gender issues in their overall programming and project implementation.