Beginning today in London, a “high level panel” will start work on formulating the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals for the world. At the bottom of this post is a list of the 26 people on that panel. If you or anyone you know has access to one or more of those people, please let them know that the economic empowerment of women should be incorporated into the next round of these goals.
The new list of development goals will guide international attention for a long time to come, will determine budgets, personnel, everything.
It is important to understand that women’s economic empowerment often takes a back seat in deliberations like this. Where women are concerned, there is a tendency to focus on more comfortable, less disruptive causes like education and health care. These things are, without doubt, very important. They also fit easily under a rubric of “rights,” which many people see as a preferable path to a focus on earning–and also somehow see rights as being incompatible with a parallel emphasis on helping women gain control over their lives economically. However, evidence suggests strongly that economic empowerment needs to come first–or at least simultaneously with–rights in other areas, if those rights are to be actionable, enforceable, meaningful.
The progress on the Millennium Development Goals, around the world, has shown that educational achievements do not translate automatically into employment for women, as they were expected to do. This occurs for several reasons, one of which is reproductive freedom. But there are other barriers, from laws that fail to protect women in the workplace to discriminatory attitudes toward lending money to women. These issues need attention, all over the world, if women are going to be able to stand on their own feet.
Importantly, evidence also strongly underscores that the best way to help children is to empower their mothers economically. There is not a better investment that can be made. But ideological prejudices often get in the way.
Of all the avenues offering promise, support for women’s entrepreneurship is probably the most sensible. The main reason for this, in my opinion, is that formal employment is scarce in many parts of the world–most people, male or female, must make their own living. Formal employment is often too restrictive for women, who must be able to be flexible in order to care for others. And, importantly, the kind of sexual discrimination and harassment that often occurs in the formal economy can sometimes be transcended more easily when you own your own employment.
In the end, entrepreneurship by women may be the only way that females can gain an equal footing in the world economy. Women are so often disadvantaged in the organizations that have already been built. Perhaps the way to go is to build our own.
The 26 High Level Panel Members: Contact them, if you know how to reach them, to emphasize the importance of economic empowerment for women.
H.E. Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia, Co-Chair
H.E. Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, Co-Chair
H.E. Mr. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Co-Chair
Fulbert Gero Amoussouga (Benin)
Vanessa Petrelli Corrêa (Brazil)
Yingfan Wang (China)
Maria Angela Holguin (Colombia)
Gisela Alonso (Cuba)
Naoto Kan (Japan)
H.M. Queen Rania of Jordan (Jordan)
Betty Maina (Kenya).
Abhijit Banerjee (India)
Patricia Espinosa (Mexico)
Paul Polman (Netherlands)
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)
Elvira Nabiullina (Russian Federation)
Sung-Hwan Kim (Republic of Korea)
Gunilla Carlsson (Sweden)
Emilia Pires (Timor-Leste)
John Podesta (United States of America)
Tawakel Karman (Yemen)
Amina J. Mohammed (ex officio)