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Industry giants pledge to give a billion women fair access to the global economy


Polly Trenow
WVoN co-editor 

A coalition of top industries and non-government organisations (NGOs) have come together to back a global initiative aimed at expanding women’s employment, access to finance, markets and education.

These are lofty aims, but who better to promote women’s economic participation than industry giants such as Goldman Sachs, the Coca-Cola Company, Ernst and Young and the World Bank who all pledged their support to the Third Billion Campaign launched last week in New York.

An initiative of La Pietra Coalition, the Third Billion Campaign is a decade long initiative which aims to tap into women’s economic potential as employees, entrepreneurs, producers and consumers.

Senior Director, Sandra Taylor said, “Women are the emerging market with the greatest potential for accelerating global economic growth over the next decade. Investing in women will transform their lives and lead to prosperity for their families, their communities and for business globally.”

The Third Billion Campaign was a result of work carried out by Booz & Company’s analysis of International Labor Organization data on women in the global workforce.

The Booz report found that around 860 million women worldwide are “not prepared” (lacking sufficient secondary education) and/or “not enabled” (lacking support from families and communities) to take part in the world economy.

The vast majority of these women, between the ages of 20 and 65  (822 million)  live in emerging and developing countries and the rest (47 million) live in North America, Western Europe and Japan.

Counting female births and those under age twenty, this number will add up to a billion in the next decade.

Dr. Victoria Kisyombe, founder and CEO of Sero Lease and Finance Corporation (SELFINA) of Tanzania and panelist at the launch event said, “The urgency of the situation is clear: Women are expected to help support their families but, particularly in rural areas, have virtually no employment opportunities.

“Small enterprises – selling produce, groceries or other items – are often the only alternative. But women lack access to productivity-enhancing technology, let along the basic assets necessary to start these businesses. We are ready, if we receive the tools, the skills and the financing to grow.”

The first action of the Third Billion campaign is a petition to the G20 member states ahead of the meeting in June 2012 in Mexico. The petition is demanding action on women’s economic participation.

Specifically they are asking governments to make commitments to a seat for women on the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion, and that central banks and other national financial authorities develop methods for the collection and dissemination of gender-disaggregated data.

The petition also calls for research to determine reasons why so many women do not have access to banking services and for commitments to increase procurement of goods and services from women-owned enterprises.

You can add your name to the petition here.

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