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Economic Investment of Girls and Women at the G(irls)20 Summit

Jun 10, 2012 Written by  Elisabeth Jessop, Guest Contributor

857926940 68fb7f260fIn one week, the G20 summit will take place in Mexico, where the world’s most influential leaders will make important decisions regarding economic investment and policy that affects women and girls.

On May 28, the G(irls)20 Summit took place at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomio de Mexico (ITAM). The summit brings together one young woman, aged 18 to 20, from each G20 country and one young woman from the African Union to discuss the economic impact women and girls have on the global economy. On the agenda this year, the summit focused on food security and violence against women in terms of opportunity gained and lost.

There are 3.5 billion girls and women in the world, and therefore, 3.5 billion ways to change the world. When women are provided an education, a platform, and the right tools, there will be a greater likelihood of working outside the home, and with it higher wages, lower fertility rates, reduced maternal and child mortality, and better health and education for an entire nation. Women are indirectly linked to a nation’s economic growth. When a woman has economic power and control of income and capital (land, livestock, etc.), she will gain more equality and control over her own life. She will also contribute to the continued development of her children through proper nutrition, knowledge of healthy practices, and quality education. Did you know, according to recent studies, that for every dollar a woman earns, she invests 90 cents in her family, compared to a male counterpart who only invests 30 to 40 cents?

The formal summit findings were presented to the public May 28th and 29th. The audience heard from representatives of the World Bank, World Economic Forum, the UN, the NoVo Foundation, Norton Rose, Nissan, the Nike Foundation, the Girl Effect, Google, and many others. On Monday, the delegates had the opportunity to meet First Lady of Mexico Margarita Zavala and Ambassador Espinosa, Mexico's Minister of Foreign Affairs. The summit panels focused on women in agriculture and the impact of empowering women farmers, the role of science and technology in increasing women’s productivity, constraints to agricultural productivity, violence against women, violence in the workplace, trafficking, etc.

Prior to the formal panels and presentations, delegates participated in over 25 hours of workshops focused on business planning, communications and media, political engagement, etc., to provide the necessary skills to help women and girls in our respective communities. Finally, delegates met in an all-day session, moderated by Jennifer Hollett, to discuss suggestions and initiatives to give women a place on the economic agenda. A communiqué with the results was presented the next day in a press conference to Bernice Diaz, a representative of the G20 leaders.

Among the ideas presented were several agricultural interventions to support women in agriculture including increased land ownership by women; additional water sources; training opportunities in sustainable techniques and technology; an international committee to designate leadership at national, state, and local levels; and reorientation of subsidy programs. On the subject of violence against women, delegates called on the G20 leaders to address the need for gender-specific infrastructure in the workplace and promote character-based education on issues of gender equality. Women should also be encouraged to take jobs in largely male-dominated sectors or industries. These suggestions are put forth recognizing that the G20 leaders play an important role in shaping the policy framework for women’s economic participation, and leaders would be limiting the potential for economic growth and development if these suggestions are not taken into consideration. Women and girls are vital players in the economy, and beyond that, in the social and political structure of society as well.

As the U.S. Delegate, I am well aware of issues facing women in my own country. More women must act as leaders in my own country, as First Lady Zavala and Ambassador Espinosa are in Mexico. Currently, only 17 percent of the U.S. Congress are women. As a part of the global community, we can give a voice to both young American women, and marginalized young women around the world. Women, especially young women, must be empowered and aware of their own voice and potential to make a difference. “While we are strong, together, we are stronger.”

Women are the key to economic productivity and social stability, and it is time to engage everyone in this global issue.

Elisabeth Jessop was the U.S. Delegate for the G(irls)20 Summit and a recent graduate from the University of Utah. Elisabeth works with the Red Thread Movement to combat sex trafficking, and the International Rescue Center to support refugees. She recently worked on a presidential campaign in Mali, and was a Harry S. Truman Finalist for her policy proposal to reform human trafficking law.

Photo: Pierre Holtz, UNICEF (cc)

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