Investing in Women and Girls Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri

Ms. Puri speech at dialogue "Investing in women and girls"


Ms. Lakshmi Puri Invest in women and girls
Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women at Panel "Investing in women and girls"

I want to express my deepest appreciation to Lorena Guillé director of Cinepolis Foundation as well to Jonathan Torres and to Forbes for the invitation to share this space with champions of gender equality and women's empowerment in Mexico.

We are very pleased to be part of this event to draw attention towards the critical and urgent matter of investing on women and girls.  And I am very proud to do so on behalf of UN-Women.

Let me start by introducing UN Women to you

After sixty-five years of the UN’s existence and the organization’s tremendous and impactful work in our world, the need for a coherent, efficient and integrated approach to promoting and achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women within the UN system was realized with the creation of UN Women. And I can proudly said that we have risen to the challenge!

UN Women is the only 21st century UN entity with the mandate to promote and realize the most inclusive and, with the biggest potential, transformation for humanity.

As global champion, UN Women has become an impactful entity that advances global norms and standards on gender equality and women’s rights. As part of our mandate, we also provides support to Member States in the implementation of those global standards within their national contexts.

And beyond that, UN Women is also a global advocate for gender equality, women’s empowerment and the rights of women globally, in all regions and countries, with governments, with civil society and the private sector, with the media, academia and with citizens - women and girls, men and boys everywhere.

Our message is clear: Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is every one business, it is every one responsibility and we all are accountable to make this happen. And we have a deadline: Planet 50-50: Step It Up for Gender Equality!!

Our highly successful and innovative campaigns well known in Mexico, including the HeForShe and the UNiTE to End Violence against Women / orange the neighborhood which you have been very actively promoting whenever the calendar marks 25 in each month. Now I invite you to joint 8th of each month to our Planet5050 campaign and take action to achieve gender equality.

Last year marked a very significant milestone in UN Women’s pathway towards advancing its mandate. Why was it so?

  • 2015 was a landmark year for the advancement of the gender equality agenda, through many groundbreaker agreements which will guide our global development efforts for the next fifteen years.
  • These include the 2030 Agenda, Financing for Development, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the outcome of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.  This year the Agreed Conclusions of the Sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women had a particular focus on women's economic empowerment, financial inclusion and empowerment.
  • The ambitious global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  It brings together economic, social and environmental dimensions in 17 SDGs covering issues from poverty eradication, access to water and energy, gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, to cities, climate change and peaceful societies. 
  • The 2030 Agenda is relevant for all countries and all countries, including Mexico, are expected to achieve all the goals.

Women’s progress will play a pivotal role in the achievement of the SDGs.

  • The SDGs include a specific goal on achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.  The goal zooms in on unequal power relations between women and men and addresses the structural barriers that hold back progress for women and girls.  It addresses issues that are relevant globally: an end to all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls from domestic violence to feminicide or child marriage; recognizing unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies.  Women’s participation and leadership in political and economic life must be ensured.  Women must have universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.  Women’s equal rights to economic resources – land, property, technology and financial services have rightly been defined as means of implementation!!

The 2030 Agenda recognizes that investing in women and girls is the breakthrough to achieving the ambitious but indispensable objectives and fulfill the commitment of the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole.  

  • The importance of "Investing in Women and Girls" cannot be overstated. But it would be a grave mistake to read this as a problem that is restricted to or exclusive to women. It is an issue that affects our entire societies. Therefore, empowering women is not only the right and fair thing to do: it is also the smart thing to do.
  • A report by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that as much as $28 trillion, or 26 per cent, could be added to global annual GDP in 2025 if women participated in the labor force at the same rate as men.
  • World Bank has estimated that if all forms of discrimination against female workers and managers were eliminated, productivity per worker could increase by up to 40 per cent (2012).
  • By investing in women and girls, the world has at its disposal the most significant and yet largely untapped potential for achieving sustainable development and long lasting peace and security.

Let me give you a few examples.

  • If we are serious about ending poverty and hunger worldwide, women must be a central part of our strategy to do so. They represent the majority of the world’s poor and many of them are held back simply because they are women.
  • And gender equality is not just a matter of social justice, it also makes economic sense. Women are a central part of the solution to ending hunger and poverty. They produce more than half of the world’s food. Yet, female farmers own less land and have less access to fertilizers, seeds and credit than men. 
  • If we were to give them the same opportunities, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by between 100 and 150 million, according to FAO.
  • Furthermore, only half of women participate in the labor force compared to three quarters of men, and in some developing countries this figure is as low as 25 per cent. In developing regions, 75 per cent of women’s employment is informal, in jobs unprotected by labor laws and lacking social protection.
  • Despite the fact that globally women work more than men, including in both paid and unpaid work, and that the new generations of women have closed the education gaps, there is still an estimated gender wage gap of 24 per cent.  If women’s work is less valued because simply because they are women, this clearly undermines their individual dignity and human value and is an unacceptable act of discrimination.
  • In the formal sector of STI, women globally make up under 10 per cent of those in innovation hubs and those receiving funding by venture capitalists, and only 5 per cent of membership in national academies in science and technology disciplines. 

The private sector is increasingly being recognized as a stakeholder in the struggle for gender equality

  • We are increasingly focused on building strategic partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors, including private companies, foundations and individuals, to promote gender equality in corporate practices, culture, value chains and in workplace generally. 
  • In line with our Women’s Economic Empowerment Principles, we are advocating for the institutionalization of game changing practices, across the private sector, such as: flexible work arrangements and paternity leave; affordable child care options; access to credit; supporting women entrepreneurs and guaranteeing equal pay for equal work.

Investing in women and girls generates intergenerational dividends in the form of education, health, nutrition and employment for the next generation.

  • Increasing women’s prospects and prosperity will bring greater economic security not just to children but also to families and communities.
  • Meeting a woman’s need for sexual and reproductive health services increases her chances of finishing her education, and breaking out of poverty.
  • By delaying teen pregnancies, girls are able to stay in school, invest in their futures and have healthier children when they are ready.
  • Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health would make women and girls less prone to high health risks, such as HIV, obstetric fistula, and complications during pregnancy.

In conclusion, the connection between women and economic growth, sustainable development and long lasting peace and security is extraordinarily powerful.

  • Today, we must not only celebrate women’s incredible achievements in science, technology and innovation, but also galvanize the global community, including the private and the philanthropic sectors, to do more to ensure that women’s participation in all sectors of the economy. 
  • Let me emphasize that women in science, technology and innovation are critical to the achieving gender equality and ultimately, all other development goals.
  • Therefore it is critical to enabling and encouraging women to enter science, technology, engineering and the math fields, and mobilizing technology to support women entrepreneurs to access new markets is critical for women’s economic empowerment. 
  • Ensuring women’s access to and control over basic elements underscoring the digital economy, such as access to affordable, reliable internet (Goal 9) and the financial means to leverage opportunities such as e-commerce.

The lack of investment in gender equality must be reversed. 

  • Through the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW) Political Declaration, Member States rightly stressed the urgent need for “significantly increased investment to close resource gaps, including through the mobilization of financial resources from all sources, including domestic resource mobilization and allocation and the official development assistance to build on progress achieved.
  • Also, I am glad to share UN Women's Youth Strategy and the unique Youth “LEAPs” Framework – Empowered Young Women and Young Men in Gender Equality.  The “LEAPs” framework calls for strengthening young women’s Leadership, promoting Economic empowerment and skills development of young women, and Action to end violence against young women and girls.  Additionally, the framework makes the strong case for promoting Participation, voice, and partnerships with young women, young women led-organizations and networks, as well as strengthening Partnerships with young men and intergenerational Partnerships to achieve gender equality.
  • Mexico as part of the G20 and the second largest economy in Latin America and the Caribbean and as such, it is in a privileged position to deliver on this commitment, leaving no one behind and ensuring women’s economic empowerment is at the heart of the agenda. 
  • Cooperation and partnerships have shown enormous potential to enable innovative strategies to promote the empowerment of women and girls.  Mexico is call to exhibit leadership in the outreach and inclusion of women in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of economic and financial policies at all levels—cascading from the global, regional, national and local, and in the gender-responsive implementation of all SDGs, especially those that impact and benefit women's economic empowerment.
  • We have here in this venue great examples of young women of achievement who have made it themselves to become a champions in their own right.  We have here also a great number of representatives of the private and philanthropic sector committed to become our new Planet 5050 Champions!!
  • Planet 50-50: Step It Up for Gender Equality! Gender equality is our common responsibility and we all are accountable to make this happen.
  • Now I call upon all men and young men to stand up and make a lifetime commitment to partner to achieve gender equality. Please join our HeForShe campaign and step up the pledges from Mexico.
  • I also call upon everyone to give a High5 in support on Goal 5 and engendering all SDGs.

Let me finalize with a verse from Octavio Paz ..

  • “Love is an attempt to penetrate another being, but it can only be rgealized if the surrender is mutual.” 
  • Love is about surrendering one to the other mutually and equally. But love is also recognizing and celebrating each other mutually and equally.

Muchas gracias Mexico!!!