By Violet Rish, Indonesia and Timor-Leste Branch, East Asia Division, AusAID
In January 2013 the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) released a report on women’s access to justice, highlighting the role of law as essential in advancing women’s rights and equality.
The report Accessing Justice tells us that we should combine grassroots efforts to empower women with top-down reforms. The Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Justice (AIPJ) Realising Rights strategy hopes to do just this.
By Heather Murphy and Anna Clancy, Office of Development Effectiveness, AusAID
Women’s economic empowerment—the ability for women to participate in the economy—is a crucial element of gender equality and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Last year the World Bank declared that promoting gender equality is ‘smart economics’ and argued that greater gender equality will boost a country’s productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make public institutions more representative.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard echoed this sentiment when announcing the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development initiative, remarking that ‘gender equality is the right thing to do; it’s also the clever thing to do’. AusAID’s gender strategy, Promoting opportunities for all – gender equality and women’s empowerment, is underpinned by four pillars of action: advancing equal access to health and education; increasing women’s voice; empowering women economically; and ending violence against women and girls.
So, how is the Australian aid program supporting women’s economic empowerment in developing countries? The Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE), AusAID’s independent evaluation unit, is currently undertaking research to answer that question. ODE’s evaluation is looking at Australian programs and policies on a global level, as well as specific country case studies, to draw out development lessons on promoting women’s empowerment.
By Mary Ellen Iskenderian, Women’s World Banking, President and CEO
There has been much research done about the potential impact of women’s participation in the economy—both as producers and consumers. The World Bank estimates that the Asia-Pacific region is losing $42 to $47 billion per year because of restrictions on women’s access to employment opportunities and another $16 to $30 billion per year because of gender gaps in education. Women now represent 40 per cent of the global labor force, 43 per cent of the world’s agricultural labor force, and more than half of the world’s university students. Eliminating barriers that discriminate against women working in certain sectors or occupations could increase labor productivity by as much as 25 per cent in some countries.
Why then, is an entire market segment struggling to get access to capital, or any financial services? Bringing women into the economy, particularly the poor, requires a shift in our perception of women and the poor as powerful economic agents. We know from our research that for poor women there are major barriers that impede their inclusion in the financial sector. If we want to reach financial inclusion for women we must understand the lives of women.
By Allison Taylor, Education Policy Officer, AusAID
Challenging disadvantage and disengagement among boys in secondary school is a policy focus of the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report (GMR). This focus reminds me of a training session which the AusAID’s Gender Equality and Policy Section provided shortly after I started with AusAID, where I discovered that the term ‘gender’ does not equate with ‘women’, as I thought at the time, nor is it interchangeable with ‘sex’. Gender refers to relations between different groups of women and girls, men and boys and involves the roles, behaviours and characteristics that society gives them. Now, after developing an increasing passion for gender and development, it seems so obvious.
By Channtey Heng, Senior Program Officer, the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation
In about a month’s time, around International Women’s Day, leaders and policymakers will meet in New York for a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. This year’s theme is the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
Here in Cambodia, we’ve recently finished a first-of-its-kind participatory action research project—Triple Jeopardy—that is contributing to a small but growing body of evidence about the higher levels of violence and discrimination experienced by women with disabilities globally. I was very keen to be involved in this project because I believed it could help a lot of women with disabilities in Cambodia and because I hoped this research could be used by leaders at meetings like the upcoming Commission.