Make Economies Work for Women

By: Codey Young, Communications Intern

Peace is Loud speaker Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is a Zimbabwean international human rights lawyer and International Board Chair of Action Aid, an international organization working to free the world from poverty and injustice. For over 20 years, she has worked to advance women and children’s human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries and addressing issues of violence against women, peace with justice and reproductive health. 

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has been publishing the Global Gender Gap Report, which tracks and analyzes gender-based disparities over time in countries around the globe. The Global Gender Gap Report is used as a framework to evaluate how far countries have to go before reaching gender parity in terms of employment, education, health and politics.

2016 Global performance, shown above, measures the average progress countries in the report have made towards achieving gender parity. According to the global performance subindexes chart, women’s economic participation and opportunity is 59% of the way toward equal representation and political participation is only 23% of the way there. The percentages listed in the chart reflect that economically, women in relation to men have lower rates of participation in the labor force, receive lower in wages, have lower estimated earned income, and are less likely to be employed as professional and technical workers.

Politically, women have less parliamentary seats, less representation at a ministerial level, and there are fewer years with female heads of state in political power. On average, the 144 countries included in the report have successfully reached near gender parity in educational attainment (95%) and health and survival (96%). The report also highlights that while over 68 countries have increased their gender gap score since last year, 74 have conversely observed a decrease. Needless to say, many efforts still need to be made to increase gender parity across all sectors.

Action Aid International Board Chair and Peace is Loud speaker Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda spoke in October at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Bank Annual Meetings panel on Making Macroeconomics Work for Women, advocating women’s substantive economic empowerment. Host Bruce Edwards of the IMF recently interviewed Nyaradzayi for IMF’s podcast on the barriers facing women’s global economic participation.

“More women in the labor force results in faster economic growth,” Edwards remarked, “yet women around the globe continue to face barriers like having far less access to financial institutions than men…Why is this such a hard sell?”

There are clear benefits of women’s integration into the workforce. When questioned why barriers still persist, Nyaradzayi highlighted the need to shift the narrative from integrating women into macroeconomics to making macroeconomics work for women. Doing so, she stated, “shifts and centralizes the role of gender equality and the role of women as the substantive, and not as an instrument of achieving growth.”

However, she told Edwards, this is no simple task. There is a specific burden on ministers of finance to understand why this shift in perspective is essential: “They have to know it’s about the total well-being of their nations; it’s about achieving the development outcomes which are more [sustainable] than the growth outcomes.”

In the work of organizations like Action Aid, Nyaradzayi identified the crucial task of injecting the “unrecognized, undervalued, and unpaid” contributions of women into policy discussions. Yet much of women’s labor falls outside the traditional measurements of growth. In the case of women, Nyaradzayi stressed, such metrics do not sufficiently respond to inequalities beyond income.

But, “who said improving the world has to be by the status quo?” Nyaradzayi argued. To this extent, Nyaradzayi recognized limitations of existing laws. Without access to justice, she said, the law will continue to be seen as insufficient. Justice, therefore, demands access to be actualized.

Women’s access to education and economic empowerment, said Nyaradzayi, grants women greater capacity to choose their life outcomes. These factors directly relate to women’s exposure to violence. She proposed using data on violence against women to support economic policies. By promoting women’s choice over their life outcomes, these policies will then increase the government’s ability to protect the human rights of their citizens.

On the question of technology and financial inclusion, Nyaradzayi commented that technology is essentially a public good. While technology has brought innovations to women’s financial inclusion, there is still a need to overcome the digital divide.

“We need to see women as co-creators: co-creators of technology, co-creators of content, co-creators of their products,” she told Edwards. “[Women need] to be owning, to be [at] the decision-making table, to be shareholders.”

To book Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda for an upcoming speaking event, please click here.  

[ultimate_ctation ctaction_background="#2b3990" ctaction_background_hover="#0094d4" ctaction_padding_top="7" ctaction_padding_bottom="0" ctaction_link="|||" text_font_size="desktop:14px;"]

Host this Speaker