Panel Calls for Greater Economic Agency for Women

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On March 10, 2015, the Peace Islands Institute, Journalists and Writers Foundation, Global Businesswomen Association, and Institute for Economics and Peace held a panel discussion titled “Economic Empowerment of Women to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals” during the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s 59th Session in New York.

Common themes included women’s access to affordable technology, the importance of social media, and the effect of violence on economic development and business environments.

The discussion was moderated by Sevgi Akarcesme, a columnist for the Zaman daily and a correspondent for Today’s Zaman. The event featured the following panelists: Hatice Esra Kavurmaci, Executive Director of the Global Businesswomen Association; Paulette Woolf, the Chief of Management Support Services of the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology; Aubrey Fox, Executive Director of the Institute for Economics and Peace; Aisha Osori, CEO of the Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund; and Dr. Burak Eskici, Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Harvard University.

The panelists shared experiences, anecdotes, and statistics that showed the economic and peace developments that come with the economic empowerment of women. The panelists also offered insight into the progress that national and international communities have yet to make. Common themes included women’s access to affordable technology, the importance of social media in terms of connection and cooperation, and the effect of violence on economic development and business environments.

Ms. Hatice Esra Kavurmaci spoke on the issue of gender equality. She urged men worldwide – husbands, brothers, or friends – to be supportive of the women in their lives. She spoke of her own high-powered life and how she values the support she receives. Her speech echoed the importance of mutual advocacy between men and women.

The important role of technology in women’s lives was discussed by Ms. Paulette Woolf. She introduced her presentation with a statement made by the Executive Director of UN Women, encouraging affordable and accessible technology for women. Ms. Woolf gave examples of how through social media and technology women are able to connect to one another and cooperate on mutual issues that affect them. She gave statistics showing women in low- or middle-income countries and the low probability that they would use mobile phones. Ms. Woolf concluded by stating the need to bridge the cultural barriers that contribute to the gender and technology divide in order to improve women’s ability to access technology in developing countries.

Mr. Aubrey Fox spoke to the nature of everyday violence as a changing concept, and he offered a definition of peace as the absence of everyday violence, or fear of everyday violence. He noted that 9.8 trillion dollars is spent on the global cost of violence, and he also pointed to a different statistic showing that 35 percent of women have experienced violence. Mr. Fox identified the “Pillars of Peace,” stating that developing nations with stronger pillars have achieved more of their mutual development goals. He highlighted indicators such as a well-functioning government, a strong business environment, and gender equality as being strong promoters of a more peaceful nation.

Ms. Aisha Osori, who presented a case study in Nigeria, discussed an overview of women’s economic and social empowerment in Africa. She commenced her discussion with a question: What are the consequences of women not being economically empowered? Ms. Osori cited country commitment and issue hijacking as obstacles to economic empowerment, and she was critical of frameworks and policies being passive without taking action. She concluded her time by urging the breakdown of the language around which women can access finance.

Dr. Burak Eskici presented a case study of Hizmet Movement volunteers in a local NGO run by women. His theme was entitled “Self-Empowerment by Doing” and he gave an in-depth analysis of the women’s efforts. In interviews he conducted, Dr. Eskici discovered that by organizing and working at this non-profit, the women involved were empowering themselves. Dr. Eskici emphasized the importance of solving the agency-structure dilemma in order to eliminate the gender gap. He spoke of agency being the women’s self-image, and how it can only evolve through action, or by doing.

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