A Plea for the Economic Empowerment of Women

26 October 2009

IDS Fellow, Professor Naila Kabeer is the lead author of the 2009 United Nations World Survey on the Role of Women in Development. The theme of the World Survey is 'Women's Control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance.'

Economic empowerment of women is critical

Development initiatives, including the Millennium Development Goals, have begun to pay greater attention to the importance of women's paid work but they continue to overlook their unpaid contributions within the home. This Survey makes a strong plea for the economic empowerment of women through promoting their access to the variety of resources they need in order to balance their work and family lives in ways that promote their own sense of wellbeing and dignity.

The Survey is wide-ranging and covers many of the themes that are addressed in the IDS-hosted Research Programme Consortium on Pathways of Women's Empowerment. These include the importance of: women's access to economic assets and decent jobs; support for their unpaid childcare responsibilities; investments in their human capabilities; social protection measures that address gender-specific forms of vulnerability; and the ability to participate in decision-making processes within their families and communities. In addition, the report argues that women need to be better represented in the structures of governance at national and international levels.

Lead author, Professor Kabeer said, 'This report is very timely. Across the world there is a growing realisation of the critical importance of gender equality in processes of economic growth. The global financial crisis has revealed the importance of hearing a much wider range of voices on the way our economies are run. A key message of the report is that policies which strengthen women's control over critical resources will have direct implications for both their empowerment and for broader processes of development. Locating these policies within a framework of rights will ensure that such control is part of their entitlements as citizens rather than being left to the discretion of male providers, the largesse of the state, or the vagaries of the market'.

World Survey launch

The Survey will be launched at the UN headquarters in New York on 26 October 2009. Professor Kabeer will present an overview of the publication at the panel discussion on that date, during the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.

The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development is the flagship publication of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women. It is presented to the Second Committee of the General Assembly at five-yearly intervals. The General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to update the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development for the consideration of the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session; noting that the survey should continue to focus on selective emerging development themes that have an impact on the role of women in the economy at the national, regional and international levels.

Professor Naila Kabeer is an IDS Fellow and Convenor of the theme on economic pathways of women's empowerment for the Pathways of Women's Empowerment Research Programme Consortium.

Photo: Panos/Giacomo Pirozzi.