How to improve women’s economic opportunities

Oral intervention by Dr. Sibylle von Heydebrand at the UN Geneva

Dr Sibylle von Heydebrand at the Global Leaders Forum on economic opportunities for women

60th Anniversary UNCTAD Dr Sibylle von Heydebrand, June 13, 2024

Globalization, technology and changes in trade policy are driving transformations in global value chains, impacting women in many ways.

In terms of the impact on women’s economic opportunities and employment, the transformation of global value chains is essentially creating numerous jobs for women and giving them the opportunity to develop their skills, leading to better employment opportunities and career advancement.

However, women in global value chains are often employed in low-skilled and low-paid positions, which reinforces gender inequality.

This brings us to the question of how we can improve women’s economic opportunities in the context of the transformation of global value chains.

The education of women and girls plays a crucial role in this process of improvement:

We need investment in women’s education and training.

We need to pay the necessary attention to girls’ education. In developing countries, for example, one in three girls do not complete elementary school, mostly because they spend eight times as long doing housework. As a result, almost twice as many girls as boys can neither read nor write.

Empowering women to participate in global value chains through improved education can not only increase economic opportunities for women, but also strengthen the economic power of the country as a whole. It also challenges traditional gender roles, which can contribute to a change in social norms and promote greater gender equality.

Global Leaders Forum on the 60th anniversary of UN Trade and Development UNCTAD

Under the title “Charting a New Development Course in a Changing World” the Global Leaders Forum took place from June 12-14, 2024 at the United Nations in Geneva and included dialogues with leading politicians, panel discussions and spotlight contributions.

It was opened by the UN Secretary-General and featured a program with high-level participation from heads of state, heads of institutions and leading economists and experts who engaged in debates on innovative approaches to tackling the challenges of sustainable development and strengthening UNCTAD’s role and influence.

The second day of the forum included a panel on “reshaping foreign direct investment and global value chains for development”. At this panel, the International Alliance of Women was one of two civil society organizations given the opportunity to speak in an oral intervention from the floor.

In the sixty years since UNCTAD was founded, the world economy has seen the rise of the Global South, a huge digital economy and a significant reduction in poverty and hunger. However, inequalities have increased, economic cycles have become more volatile and the threat of climate disasters has intensified. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the failure to recover inclusively, increase poverty and reduce Human Development Index scores.

UNCTAD was founded with the express goal ensuring that globalization leaves no one behind. Sixty years later, accomplishing this task requires a profound paradigm shift – in how we harness technology, how we finance trade and prepare for a global race for climate action, how we define and measure progress, and how we adapt and transform ourselves to meet and lead a changing world order.

Geneva, June 2024

Dr Sibylle von Heydebrand
IAW’s Main Representative to the UN Geneva
Representative of the IAW at the 60th anniversary of the UN Trade and Development UNCTAD


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