News for 20 June has been taken from Women’s News Network.
Currently there are 3.5 billion girls and women in the world. This actually means to global advocates that there are 3.5 billion ways to change the world. The G(irls)20 Summit, in its third session, brought together 22 young women as delegates representing the G20 countries, including the African Union, to discuss issues and solutions for economic growth.
Gathering before the official G20 conference kicked off in Mexico City’s ITAM University (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México), only weeks ahead of the G20, girl delegates proposed specific actions for world leaders countering the shortage of food supply, the work for women in agriculture and the rising violence that faces girls and women today.
They came to Mexico City to send a strong message to the leaders who have gathered for the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, opening a critical debate and dialogue on the influence of girls and women as drivers of economic improvement for their communities and beyond. One of the goals — to deliver a document to influence the international Heads of State at this year’s G20 Summit.
“Too often we see decisive economical opportunities get lost when girls and women are underestimated and undervalued”, says Farah Mohamed, President of the G(irls)20 Summit. “By recognizing the important role that girls and women play in building strong economies and stable communities, the G20 has the opportunity to make strategic investments and make decisions that will allow significant results all over the world”.
During the first phase of the G(irls)20 Summit, the delegates talked leadership, media and public relations and how to become politically engaged. They also learned the value of business planning and storytelling to reach the public. As they attended panels and side-conferences given by top specialists they learned how society is changed by women. And how the impacts facing women cause all of society to change. Two of the key discussions covered: “opportunity gained: investing in women in agriculture” and “opportunity lost as a result of gender based violence”.
The ultimate goal of the G(irls)20 Summit is to present their message to the Mexican government as well as the leaders of the G20.”While women comprise nearly half of the agricultural labour force [globally], their potential remains unleveraged. It has been shown that secure land rights [for women] can increase agricultural production by 60 per cent and income by 150 per cent”, outlines the ‘official communiqué’ from the G(irls) Summit.
It is hoped that all delegates will go back to their communities and put their new ideas into practice.
“I think the potential for change is enormous, in terms of bringing together fresh ideas”, said Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank Group, recently to WNN. “The group of girls itself has a lot of credibility because of its diversity and their caliber -they’re very impressive and thoughtful- and by connecting them, by giving them a sense of possibilities, the potential for making significant difference in their lives, and them in turn making significant change in the lives of others, is quite high”.
Delegates for the G(irls)20 Summit have been chosen because of their ‘strong’ will to bring about innovative solutions to problems they see affecting their countries and the world. Magdaly Santillanez, a delegate from Mexico and a high-school student from the state of Sinaloa, currently working on issues of global poverty by applying scientific research to help pilot a new and innovative program for global microfinance.
“…today I write about what we perfectly know: the humankind and our actions to take care of our home, the Earth, where more than seven billion of us live and out of those seven billion, 3.5 billion are girls and women”, Santillanez shared in her recent blog release made to The Huffington Post.
By putting the data in place, Santillanez wants to understand how microcredits and business training together is useful to improve the economic and social situation for those suffering under highest degree of global poverty.
“We must not think that this event is feminist or for women only”, Santillanez emphasized recently in an interview with WNN. “We are half of the world’s population and by empowering a girl or a woman you will improve not only her life, but her family’s and all the people around her as well”, she added.
This same idea resonated among many keynote speakers during the G(irls) Summit. “Men are [also] part of the solution and they’re benefited from whatever we do for women”, said Isatou Jallow, Chief of Women, Children and Gender Policy for the United Nations World Food Programme.
Delivering a ‘heartfelt’ speech during the G(irls)20 Summit outlining the role men can take in preventing violence against women, Jimmie Briggs, former journalist and founder of the Man Up Campaign, recalled having what he calls a, “life-changing moment”. When he met a woman in the Congo region of Africa who confessed to him her tragic story his life changed immediately.
She told Briggs she was gang-raped by the militia during the conflict in Congo, and saw her children and father killed in front of her. The shock of making such close contact with a woman who’s traumatic experience under conflict was so overwhelming to Briggs, caused him to discontinue his work as a journalist. Deciding to start instead the Man Up Campaign, Briggs now aims to activate global youth to stop all violence against women and girls worldwide.
“Women’s rights are human rights”, he declared to all those attending the Mexico City based G(girls) ‘pre-summit’ to the G20 Summit meetings in Los Cabos. Describing itself as a “bold initiative and the first of its kind in that it is both youth led and informed,” the Man Up Campaign is changing lives, both men and women’s lives.
But how can women gain strength in the public sector? And how can this strength improve our world?
Securing women’s access to safety, nutrition and a job with equality standards, opportunities and access to education can make positive impacts on economic growth and social development, outlined the conference. This is an effort that has to be made by all the sectors of society though the conference stressed. It’s essential that the government as well as the private sector and civil society jumps in, stressed the G(irls) Summit.
As Jeni Klugman reminded, there has been progress. According to World Bank 2012 data on gender equality and development, gender gaps in primary education have lowered in almost all countries. Women are also more than half the world’s university students. Over half a billion women have also joined the work force over the last 30 years.
However other gaps persist in many areas reveals the girls summit. Women still have unequal access to education. They also face death more often because of their gender. through gender selective abortion; in early childhood as the ‘less valued girl-child’; and in their reproductive years as they face the ‘real’ dangers of maternal mortality.
“We live in a globalised world where a significant event occurring today in a given place has direct and immediate consequences in the rest of the world”, says Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Relations and G20 Ambassador Patricia Espinosa.
“Undoubtedly, we must either accept our shared future, or we will have none”, she continued.
Unequal access to economic opportunities can greatly limit a woman’s power as decision makers in their own households, as well as their own society. Although general household financial wealth has gone up 5.14 percent in Mexico since 2004, according to the Paris based OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, that works to help governments work together to solve problems that face women everywhere, “Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market”, outlines the OECD.
Jeni Klugman, from the World Bank, explains the issues of women and inequality more closely. “They’re a real drag on development, that’s why last year over 25 billion dollars were invested in gender-informed projects”, she said. One of the programs funded by the World Bank in Mexico is the GEM – Gender Equity Model, run by the National Institute for Women.
“Mexico has made substantial progress in recent years in reducing gender gaps in education, reducing the maternal
mortality rate, and increasing women’s participation in the labor force. Yet much remains to be done.Women in Mexico still represent only 35% of the labor force”, says a 2010 outline of the GEM program.
Working to bring equal opportunities for men and women to the table throughout the region, 300 Mexican organizations have already been certified as ‘gender equitable’.
According to their report: “Participating firms have eliminated pregnancy discrimination from recruitment practices, communication has improved, and 90% of participating organizations reported that workers’ performance and productivity have increased”.
Other sources are saying that women are seeing improvements in regions including Mexico. “Mexico continues to climb the rankings, gaining two positions this year because of an improvement in the wage gap”, says an October 2011 report by UNESCO.
“Things can change”, Klugman outlines. “Not by itself but with the work of civil society, political will and domestic policy and the private sector”.
Some of the most inspiring advice for the G(irls)20 Summit came from women in the private sector only days before the G20 Summit. The last panel, called “Women in Mexico”, stressed “never giving up and being fearless”. The G20 ‘pre-summit’ was left with a simple idea: “If you don’t try, you have already failed”, reminded Nicole Reich from Scotiabank Mexico.