Big Petition, Worldwide Shout-Out

On the afternoon of May 29, the Oxford Forum for Women in the World Economy–the Power Shift Forum–will put a petition out to the world.  It will say:

We, the undersigned, call on the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, in the articulation of the Post-2015 Development Framework, to emphasize women’s economic empowerment, particularly with regard to increasing women’s access to financial services, improving their financial capability, and increasing their access to skilled jobs including leadership positions in the financial sector.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Andrew Hamilton, will sign first, followed by Peter Tufano, the Dean of the Saïd Business School.  Then, we will invite the Power Shift community to come and sign.  This audience includes leading people from corporations, NGOs, foundations, charities, universities, and government.  Many of the largest and most important institutions in the world will be represented.

While the document is being signed, we will ask everyone present to tell the world through social media about this important initiative.  We want to raise awareness all over the globe for this key issue.  After the document is signed in hard copy, an electronic form will be posted online that any and every world citizen can sign.  There will be press to cover this historic moment.  The Power Shift team at Oxford will then take responsibility, with the help of close institutional partners, for getting this document to the United Nations.

Our intention is to create a moment in which women’s financial exclusion cannot be ignored.  We want to make a gesture that will make clear that the time has come to be active and serious, as an international community, about creating an inclusive financial system.  We want to show that major institutions support this goal.  In short, we want to make a very loud noise about a very important issue.

Women around the world have been excluded from the money system through history, barred from inheriting wealth, opening a bank account, owning a portfolio, signing a contract, or applying for credit.  Today, they are still significantly disadvantaged and excluded relative to the world of finance, whether we are talking about lack of access to simple services, such as savings accounts, or exclusion from the boardrooms of this powerful sector.  For far too long, women themselves have not taken money seriously, a blind spot that leaves them vulnerable in so many ways.  It is time to resolve this damaging inequality.

From an economic development perspective, the benefits are clear.  Greater financial inclusion, especially for women, stabilizes economic life for families and creates a path to a better future for communities.  That is why we aim for getting this issue on the formal list of the goals set for the international future.  An item on the post-2015 Development Goal agenda will get attention, effort, and money.  It can’t be ignored.  Financial inclusion is as important to well-being as any other objective under consideration, especially for women.

Let’s get it on this list. I will announce the site for the petition in time for any readers of this blog–and all of their friends!–to be able to sign it.  In the meantime, there is an online discussion about the issues surrounding financial inclusion for women, sponsored by Oxford’s Power Shift and UN Women.  It will go on for the next four weeks, both before and after the petition signing. You can join that discussion by registering here.  The Power Shift Forum is by invitation, but it is not meant to be exclusive.  If you feel that you could make a significant contribution to a serious discussion about women and finance and would like to know how you might come along, please write wwef@sbs.ox.ac.uk.

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