SHEconomy: Strengthening Institutions and Women's Leadership for Socio-Economic Development 

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SHEconomy: Strengthening Institutions and Women's Leadership for Socio-Economic Development 

SHEconomy: Strengthening Institutions and Women's Leadership for Socio-Economic Development | March 18, 2024

On March 18, 2024, the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF), in partnership with the Indialogue Foundation, GIOSTAR-USA, and the Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce, hosted a virtual side event during the 68th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68). The event “SHEconomy: Strengthening Institutions and Women’s Leadership for Socio-Economic Development” aimed to address the UN CSW68 Priority theme of “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.”

During the CSW68 virtual side event, Priyanka Chahal, JWF’s Program Associate and youth representative to the United Nations DGC, took on the role of opening and moderating the discussion. In her introductory remarks, she highlighted the crucial role of gender equality in eradicating extreme poverty and moving towards a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable global community. Chahal underscored that attaining gender equality is essential for poverty eradication and stressed the need to advocate for equal rights and opportunities for both women and men in areas such as education, healthcare, and the workforce.

Priyanka highlighted the slow progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to achieve gender equality by 2030. While there have been some advancements in certain regions, the global landscape for women’s leadership continues to show disparities with persistent systemic hurdles like discrimination, limited opportunities, cultural prejudices, and underrepresentation in decision-making arenas.

Regarding women’s entrepreneurship, Priyanka discussed the growing recognition of its importance globally and various initiatives supporting women-owned businesses. She highlighted the resilience and sustainability often demonstrated by businesses led by women but also outlined persistent challenges such as limited access to finance, discriminatory practices, and societal norms discouraging women from entrepreneurship. She also highlighted the rise of grassroots women-led businesses, particularly in the global South and developing countries, addressing local needs and fostering community development. Despite their crucial role, these businesses face barriers such as limited access to finance, inadequate support services, cultural norms undermining autonomy, and systemic gender biases. 

In his keynote address, Rakesh Ganguli, a Gender-policy & Inclusion Specialist from UN Women India, emphasized the ongoing difficulties and gradual advancements in the pursuit of global gender equality. Referring to data from the 2023 Global Gender Gap Index, he noted that while there has been some progress, the goal of achieving complete gender parity still seems remote, with substantial projected timelines for bridging gender disparities in economic participation and opportunities.

Rajesh emphasized the need for increased investment and attention to gender equality, pointing out the alarming deficit in financing for gender equality measures and the threat of a global backlash against women’s rights. He noted various obstacles to gender equality, including gender-based violence, the gender pay gap, underrepresentation of women in politics, and systemic barriers in economic activities and leadership roles.

Despite progress in areas such as education and access to healthcare, Rajesh underscored the persistent gender gaps in labor force participation rates and the need for gender-responsive policies to address structural barriers. He highlighted the importance of gender budgeting and the adoption of inclusive growth policies that prioritize the needs and empowerment of women.

Rajesh called for a shift in focus from merely closing gender gaps to addressing deeper power imbalances and promoting new models of growth that reduce disparities between genders and between capital and labor. He stressed that gender-responsive policy making benefits not only women but also contributes to a more just, productive, and peaceful society by ensuring the equal value and recognition of all individuals’ needs and priorities.

Sahera Sumar, Director of Global Leadership Consulting at UNAA (NSW) in Australia, extended her thanks to Dr. Rakesh for his enlightening comments and delved into her emphasis on women in leadership roles. She started by acknowledging the indigenous landowners and stressed the importance of tackling gender inequality promptly, especially in leadership positions as emphasized by the Sustainable Development Goals. Sahera highlighted the troubling figures concerning the sluggish advancement towards gender equality, pointing out that substantial efforts are still required in this arena.

Sahera Sumar emphasized that gender equality is not just a goal but a basic human right, highlighting the dire consequences of continued inequality, especially for vulnerable women and girls. Sahera stressed the importance of creating enabling environments for women’s leadership, as leadership is not just a role but a mindset that involves standing for something greater than oneself and effecting change.


Sahera identified three major barriers to achieving gender equality in leadership: systems, structures, and self. She explained that systems and structures encompass institutionalized barriers such as discriminatory laws and societal beliefs, while self-refers to personal beliefs and confidence, which can hinder women’s pursuit of leadership roles. Sahera advocated for redefining leadership to be more inclusive and embracing traits traditionally associated with female leaders.

She shared her experience launching Worldwide Sheroes, a social enterprise aimed at empowering women leaders globally through mentoring and networking. Sahera highlighted the importance of providing opportunities for women from diverse backgrounds to thrive personally and professionally. She emphasized the impact of mentorship in building confidence and leadership capabilities among women.

Sahera concluded by announcing the launch of the SheRise program, a self-empowerment initiative designed to guide women through a journey of self-discovery and goal-setting. She emphasized the importance of collaboration and partnerships in advancing the mission of empowering women leaders globally, inviting interested individuals and organizations to join in the effort.

Ebere Akadiri, the Founder of Rise and Lead Women in Netherlands, emphasized the crucial role of women entrepreneurs in driving innovation, creating jobs, and contributing to economic growth. As a female entrepreneur herself, she shared her experiences and insights, aiming to shed light on the benefits of promoting female entrepreneurship, the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, best practices in this field, and a call to action for support and advocacy.

She emphasized the significant economic impact of women entrepreneurs, citing reports by the Boston Consulting Group estimating potential increases in global GDP if venture capital funding were equitably allocated. Ebere highlighted the positive effects of women’s entrepreneurship on economic growth, inclusive prosperity, innovation, and social change, citing examples such as the success of Rent the Runway, an e-commerce business founded by women.

Moreover, Ebere underscored the importance of promoting gender equality through entrepreneurship, as it empowers women economically and closes the gender leadership gap. She advocated for creating an ecosystem that supports women through training, mentorship, financial resources, and advocacy. Drawing from her personal journey as an entrepreneur, she highlighted the challenges women face, including lack of education, mentorship, access to capital, market access, and systemic gender biases in funding and business dealings.

Ebere shared her initiatives with Rise & Lead Women, which focuses on education, advocacy, and community building to empower women in leadership positions and entrepreneurship. She emphasized the need for access to capital as a crucial factor in supporting women’s businesses, along with education, training, and advocacy for policies benefiting female entrepreneurship. She called on policymakers, activists, and investors to champion female entrepreneurs, remove legislative obstacles, provide funding and support programs, and address biases to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in entrepreneurship.

In her concluding remarks, Ebere emphasized that investing in women entrepreneurs not only benefits individuals and communities but also contributes to broader societal and economic growth. She urged stakeholders to take women entrepreneurs seriously and actively support their endeavors to unlock their full potential and drive positive change.

Palakh Khanna, Founder and CEO of Break the Ice based in India, shared her perspectives on empowering women leaders and entrepreneurs, echoing her deep passion for promoting sustainable development goals and gender equality. Introducing herself as a youth changemaker and environmentalist, Palakh highlighted the significance of raising awareness about women’s leadership and the obstacles they face due to gender discrimination and marginalization.

She emphasized the need to drive change from grassroots to global levels by creating awareness and breaking taboos associated with women in leadership roles. Palakh stressed the importance of increasing access to resources for women, including networks, mentors, and opportunities, to enable them to overcome barriers and fulfill their leadership potential.

Drawing from her own journey and observations, Palakh underscored the transformative power of education, mentorship, and advocacy in empowering women entrepreneurs. She emphasized the importance of gender equity and the intersectionality of various issues such as gender-based violence, well-being, and leadership in promoting sustainable development.

Palakh highlighted the role of stakeholders, including policymakers, institutions, youth organizations, and individual activists, in driving change and supporting women entrepreneurs. She emphasized the need for business-based programs, mentorship initiatives, and policy advocacy to create an enabling environment for women’s entrepreneurship.

Moreover, Palakh emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts and inclusive policies that involve women in decision-making processes and address the diverse needs of female entrepreneurs. She underscored the value of building supportive communities and networks for young female entrepreneurs to foster collaboration, support, and growth opportunities.

In her concluding remarks, Palakh reiterated the importance of empowering women through education, guidance, support, finances, and collaborations to strengthen institutions and promote gender equality. She expressed gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the conversation and emphasized the collective effort needed to create a more inclusive and empowering environment for women leaders and entrepreneurs.

Following the panelists’ concluding remarks, the moderator opened the floor for questions and answers, creating an interactive session where the audience had the opportunity to engage with the panelists by asking questions.