Statement of Judith Karl, UNCDF Executive Secretary, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2017

  • March 08, 2017

  • New York, USA

Two years ago, Member States of the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, setting out a blueprint for achieving a better world for people, planet, and prosperity by 2030.

Women's empowerment is not only a goal; it is a catalyst and enabler for achieving each of the 17 goals. To accelerate progress towards the SDGs, we all need to recognize women as vital development agents and identify transformative solutions that will remove barriers to their full economic potential. That is why the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day --“Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” – is so important.

It reminds us that overcoming structural barriers to women’s participation in the local economy, and recognizing their multiple roles as consumers, employers, entrepreneurs, and employees in the design of financial solutions, can have powerful impacts on the lives of women.

It also reminds us that, despite significant progress, much remains to be done.

While more people are gaining access to financial services worldwide— 62 % of the world’s adult population had access to a financial services account in 2014, up from to 50 % in 2011-- the gender gap persists in developing countries. And across the world, women still earn consistently less than men. Financial inclusion can improve women’s earnings, increase consumption, strengthen household resilience, boost the health of their children, and improve the prospects of the next generation of girls and women. Digital financial services can give a woman the ability to safely store funds, as well as save the time and effort required to travel long distances to receive or transfer cash.

That is why UNCDF’s work on financial inclusion is piloting new financial services and products that empower women, and focusing on bringing them to scale. That means more women can access digital finance accounts, savings groups, mobile money, loans and other financial services that can help lift them and their families out of poverty. UNCDF is proud that all its financial inclusion programmes reflect gender equality by including specific targets on women.

Fostering the full participation of women in local economic development and entrepreneurship requires overcoming deep-rooted discriminatory attitudes and challenging inequitable social and economic structures. Local governments and the private sector have important roles to play in designing, implementing and sustaining local public and private investments with an emphasis on unlocking barriers to women’s economic empowerment. Investments in appropriate local infrastructure can accelerate progress for women’s economic empowerment by reducing their burden of unpaid care work and providing them access to markets and resources. Globally, women do nearly 2.5 times as much unpaid care work as men, which reduces their capability to perform income-generating work. That is why UNCDF works with local governments and the private sector to design and implement innovative solutions to promote women’s full participation in the local economy.

Across all our work, we recognize that it is important to act locally for gender equality, because that is where increased investments in financial inclusion, local infrastructure, and entrepreneurship can make a direct and lasting difference in the lives of women.

On International Women's Day, UNCDF pledges to do all it can to empower women and promote equal opportunities for all women and girls.