Emerging markets’ feminine future

By Shaukat Aziz

Shaukat Aziz was  Prime Minister of Pakistan, 2004-2007.

Shaukat Aziz
Shaukat Aziz

LONDON – According to the United Nations, 70% of women worldwide experience violence in their lifetime. The World Bank adds that women aged 15-44 are more likely to experience rape or domestic violence than cancer, car accidents, war, or malaria. Such indicators are even more alarming in emerging markets, where discrimination and gender inequality are particularly prevalent.

This partly reflects the failure of public policy to ameliorate the distributive consequences of rapid economic growth. With the informal sector continuing to play a major role in emerging economies, women often have access to only unreliable and transitory employment that offers casual and irregular wages. Meanwhile, unprecedented urbanisation has disrupted traditional family structures, further undermining the role that women can play in economies and societies.

The damaging impact of active gender discrimination – such as bride burning and female infanticide – is clear. But passive discrimination – tolerating rules and institutions that deny women equal say in reproductive decisions, equal access to education and employment, equal pay for equal work, equal rights before the law, and equal political influence – is similarly destructive.

In all of its forms, gender discrimination makes women vulnerable to sexual slavery, trafficking, and forced marriage, deprives women of their inalienable rights, and diminishes their quality of life. At the same time, it stunts the capacity of boys and men to understand women’s plight, thus diminishing their motivation to change the situation. While these issues are global, they are most urgent in emerging markets, where they are undermining the social and economic progress on which the rest of the world increasingly relies.

In the wake of the global economic crisis, emerging markets have become the engines of worldwide growth. But these countries face growing constraints to sustainability, social cohesion, and political stability, including erosion of their international competitiveness, environmental degradation, weaknesses (including corruption) in national, local, and corporate governance, wasted human capital, and growing social, economic, and gender inequality.

Failure to make full use of women’s talents undermines emerging markets’ economic development, while the marginalization and abuse of women threatens their social advancement and impairs their political stability. With most countries worldwide facing continued economic uncertainty, the international community has a vested interest in emerging economies’ resilience, collective capacity to sustain global demand for goods and services, and ability to confront the challenges, such as gender inequality, that threaten their success.

The importance of overcoming these barriers to development was emphasized at a recent symposium (of which I was the chair) at Green Templeton College, Oxford. Fifty leaders from government, business, civil society, and academia identified gender inequality as the most urgent constraint to sustainable growth, social cohesion, and political stability, and agreed on the steps needed to address the issue effectively.

First and foremost, national policymakers must take concrete, comprehensive action to ensure that women are forced to abandon neither productive nor reproductive activities. To this end, governments should implement measures that guarantee, directly or indirectly, affordable child- and elder-care support systems for working parents.

At the same time, it is crucial that women enjoy total reproductive autonomy and sexual sovereignty. This can be achieved only with the provision of universal and unfettered access to reproductive and other relevant health-care services.

Policymakers must enforce criminal sanctions against these practices. Subsequently, educational programs for children and adults should be launched, in collaboration with religious groups, in order to improve public understanding of gender inequality. By promoting a shift in public perceptions, such programmes can catalyze fundamental behavioral changes.

International action is also crucial. The World Bank and regional development banks should be encouraged to incorporate gender-equality criteria into their eligibility criteria for loans and credit to emerging-market governments and private-sector corporations. Such a clear economic link would help to motivate local policymakers to take strong action, while helping to bolster public support for policies promoting gender equality.

The international community has a profound stake in the future performance of emerging markets. In order to bolster these countries’ social and economic advancement, the development agenda in the coming years should include a robust commitment to promoting gender equality.

Comments  

Venezuelan President Maduro set to run for re-election in 2018 vote

CARACAS,  (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro looked sure to stand for re-election in a presidential vote due by the end of April where the ruling Socialists hope to trump a squabbling opposition despite an economic crisis and foreign sanctions.

Trump Cabinet member Sessions interviewed in U.S. Russia probe

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned last week by the special counsel’s office investigating potential collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, the U.S.

Two students dead, 17 injured in shooting at Kentucky high school

BENTON, Ky.,  (Reuters) – A 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun just before classes started at his high school in rural western Kentucky yesterday, killing two fellow students and wounding a dozen other youths before he was arrested, the state’s governor and police said.

New Zimbabwe leader orders top officials to declare assets

HARARE, (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has given cabinet ministers and senior government officials until the end of February to declare their assets as new President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeks to foster transparency and fight corruption.

Twin car bombs kill more than 30 in Libya’s Benghazi -officials

BENGHAZI, Libya,  (Reuters) – A double car bombing in the east Libyan city of Benghazi yesterday left at least 33 people dead and dozens more wounded, including senior security figures and civilians, officials said.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now

×