The empowerment of women contributes to economic development, according to UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Douglas Broderick yesterday.
“Empowering women isn’t just an essential part of realising women’s rights,” he said at a workshop to validate the action plan on women’s economic empowerment in Phnom Penh. “It also makes good economic sense.”
Presided over by the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ing Kantha Phavi, the workshop was aimed at unveiling an action plan by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MWA) to promote the economic empowerment of Cambodian women. The action plan is based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Acceleration Framework, a tool to speed up progress on the MDGs.
In February 2012, the MWA requested support from the UNDP to further progress in the acceleration of the Cambodian Millennium Development Goal 3, which aims at promoting gender equality and empowering women and has a special focus on women’s economic empowerment. Broderick referred to the 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, which credits increased participation by women workers as a significant contributor to global growth.
Achieving a 70 per cent level of women’s participation in the labour market would boost the GDP by 4.2 per cent a year in India, 2.9 per cent in Malaysia and 1.4 per cent in Indonesia, he said.
“On the other hand, a lack of women’s participation in the workforce costs the region an estimated US$89 billion every year,” Broderick said.
Karin Schelzig, Senior Social Sector Specialist at the Asian Development Bank Cambodia, agrees that economic empowerment of Cambodian women makes economic sense “because progress for women is progress for everyone,” she said.
“Without harnessing the talents, human capital and economic potential of women – more than half of Cambodia’s population – goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development will be very difficult to meet.”
According to Schelzig, economic empowerment can be achieved through better access to microfinance institutions but also through investing in women’s education and skills development, thus enabling them to gain better and higher paying jobs.
“Rural women in Cambodia often lack access to business development services and market information that would help them be more competitive, so these types of interventions can also bring about women’s economic empowerment,” she said.
Flynn Fuller, mission director of USAID Cambodia, said every activity they have includes a gender component. He said for example Fintrac, a USAID partner which also attended yesterday’s workshop, “is working on economic growth and it has a strong gender component”.
Uch Sarom, social inclusion specialist at Fintrac Cambodia, said she agreed that the economic empowerment of Cambodian women contributes to the economy. She said Fintrac, which focuses on food security and nutrition in rural areas, helps people in villages to maintain and expand home gardens and sell their food on the local markets.
“We give top priority to women,” she said. According to Uch Sarom, this increases their income and contributes to economic growth.
To contact the reporter on this story: Anne Renzenbrink at [email protected]