Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment through Financial Inclusion and Agricultural Development
  • January 10, 2012


WHAT: As part of the IV United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries this side event, organized by the Government of Austria, the Government of Luxembourg and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), aims to deepen our understanding of how promoting women’s economic empowerment, through a combination of women-focused complementary financial and non-financial services, can have a significant impact on women, their businesses, their families and their communities, contributing to both poverty reduction and economic growth.

Panelists representing LDCs, donor countries and the UN will provide new perspectives on how to improve women’s access to appropriate and demand-driven financial services, particularly in combination with key non-financial services. The panelists will address key questions related to: the importance for women to have access to financial services; how to translate women’s access into use of financial services, poverty reduction and economic growth at enterprise, community and national level; the additional non-financial services necessary to bring about women’s economic empowerment and the role of governments and donors in this process.

WHO: the Panel will consist of the following distinguished speakers:

-> Ms. Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Ms. Jacobs was appointed in 2009 as Luxembourg’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs and Minister for Family Affairs and Integration. Before that, Ms. Jacobs was in charge of the Ministry for Family Affairs and Integration and the Ministry for Equal Opportunities since 1995.

-> Mr. Franz Fischler, President of the Eco Social Forum Europe. Mr Fischler started his career in 1979 in the extension service and served as Austrian Federal Minister for Agriculture and Forestry from 1989 - 1994. For nearly a decade (1995-2004) he successfully shaped European Agricultural Policy as the Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries of the EU.

-> Ms. Michelle Bachelet is the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. Under her leadership, UN Women will lead, support and coordinate the work on gender equality and the empowerment of women at global, regional and country level. Ms. Bachelet most recently served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010, and among her major successes, despite the financial crisis, was increased spending on pension reform and social protection programmes for women and children, and tripling the number of free early child-care centres for low-income families. Ms. Bachelet has also served as Minister of Defence and Minister of Health.

-> Ms. Essma Ben Hamida, Co-Founder and Executive Director, ENDA INTER-ARABE.  In 1995, Ms. Ben Hamida launched, with Michael Cracknell, the first microfinance institution in Tunisia. With 163 000 active clients, a US$ 60 million outstanding portfolio, 65 branches, and staff of 800, ENDA is a financially self-sufficient institution and was ranked 21st out of the top 100 MFIs in the world by the MIX market. Ms. Ben Hamida is a founding member of Sanabel, and was elected twice to Sanabel’s Board (2002 – 2008) serving as chairperson from December 2005 to May 2008. In October 2010 she was named Social Entrepreneur of the year for the MENA region by the Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum.

-> Mr. David Morrison, Executive Secretary, UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). Mr. Morrison has been Executive Secretary of UNCDF since 2008. He previously served in number of capacities with UNDP in New York, with the World Economic Forum in Geneva, and with the Canadian Foreign Service in Havana and Ottawa. He has also been a Contributing Editor to Foreign Policy magazine. He began his career with UNDP in North Korea.

WHEN: 10 May , 2011 | 18:00 - 19:30 

WHERE: Çamlica Hall - Special Events, Istanbul Congress Centre  -  IV United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (Instanbul)

WHY: Women perform a great proportion of the world’s work - not least in the agricultural sector - though they reap fewer rewards from it. They make up a disproportionate part of the poor and have less access to education and productive resources than men. Yet, expanding women’s and girls’ economic opportunities is smart economics. Increased women’s labor force participation and earnings are associated with reduced poverty and faster growth.

In addition, rural women’s access to financial services is a key factor of successful rural development strategies. Despite women’s significant contribution to the agricultural sector, lack of access to financial services remains a serious constraint to women’s empowerment in rural Africa, with women having access to less than 10% of available credit to smallholder agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa. Designing appropriate financial products for women to be able to save, borrow and insure is essential to strengthen women’s role as producers and widen the economic opportunities available to them.

From its inception, microfinance sought to rectify gender imbalances by focusing on women. As microfinance goes mainstream, however, attention to the particular characteristics and needs of women is diminishing.

A number of development partners seek to reverse that trend by promoting innovative, replicable, sustainable, and scalable financial solutions that focus on women’s strengths and needs and enabling non-financial services that address gender-related constraints faced by women.



Austrian Development Cooperation

Together with its partners, the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) contributes first and foremost to reducing poverty, promoting peace and security and protectingthe environment and natural resources. It thus makes a major contribution to attaining the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. The main activities of the Austrian Development Cooperation relate to water management and sanitation, rural development, energy, education and science, private-sector development, and governance (including human rights, peace and conflict prevention). All ADC programmes and projects take special account of gender equality and the needs of children and people with disabilities. UNCDF is a key partner for the Austrian Development Cooperation in support of decentralisation and community driven local development, inclusive finance and focus on women’s economic empowerment and development.

Luxembourg Development Cooperation

The Luxembourg government’s development cooperation programme deals with poverty eradication as its primary objective. In the spirit of sustainable development, international cooperation activities are being designed and implemented in line with Luxembourg’s partner countries’ policies and priorities and increasingly according to national implementation measures; half of Luxembourg’s partner countries are LDCs. The urgency to implement the Millennium Development Goals strongly suggests a sectoral focus on education, health and local integrated development. Financial contributions by the Luxembourg government to local development programs come in support of the partner countries’ own national efforts for decentralization. Luxembourg’s ODA provided in 2010 amounted to 1.09% of its GNI of which about 77 million EUR were allocated to LDC’s (i.e. 39,86 % of Luxembourg’s bilateral ODA).

UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF)

UNCDF is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 48 least developed countries. It creates new opportunities for poor people and their communities by increasing access to microfinance and investment capital. UNCDF focuses on Africa and the poorest countries of Asia, with a special commitment to countries emerging from conflict or crisis. It provides seed capital – grants and loans – and technical support to help microfinance institutions reach more poor households and small businesses, and local governments finance the capital investments – water systems, feeder roads, schools, irrigation schemes – that will improve poor peoples’ lives. UNCDF programmes help to empower women, and are designed to catalyze larger capital flows from the private sector, national governments and development partners, for maximum impact toward the Millennium Development Goals.