Commonwealth women’s affairs ministers concluded their three-day 10th triennial meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, today with a call for the Commonwealth to explore innovative, inclusive and accessible financing to support women entrepreneurs. This reflected the meeting’s theme: ‘Women’s leadership for enterprise’.
The meeting’s final Communiqué also called for strengthened systems to increase the representation of women in political decision-making at all levels, including through affirmative policies and electoral reform.
Ministers discussed the Commonwealth contribution to new targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. They agreed on collective Commonwealth support for a twin-track approach to gender equality: a stand-alone goal to ensure that gender equality is an objective in its own right, and that it is incorporated into all other goals – referred to technically as ‘mainstreaming.’ The United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda has proposed this approach.
Ministers found that violence against women remained a ‘critical’ issue across the Commonwealth and should be a priority in the new goals. They called for urgent measures to address this issue and make violence against women and children a crime, as well as for the wide ranging implementation of laws and strengthened jurisprudence of equality.
The meeting also drew attention to the impact of climate change and natural disasters on the economic empowerment and livelihoods of women.
Commonwealth Heads of Government will be presented with the Communiqué when they meet in Sri Lanka in November.
In her keynote address on Tuesday, Freda Miriklis, President of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, said that the Commonwealth with its one billion women stood at a crossroads. “We must recognise women for what they are – a vital source of growth that can power economies,” she stressed.
“Women are the next emerging growth market that governments and companies can no longer ignore,” Ms Miriklis told ministers. She pointed out that there were 200 million women entrepreneurs around the world earning $10 trillion a year - earnings that would likely rise by $5 trillion over the next few years.
Ms Miriklis said the creativity of this huge demographic accounted for by women could provide the world with an unprecedented resource for driving economic growth and improving the quality of life over the next decade. “Reaping this demographic dividend will not be easy and it may require significant social and legal change,” she concluded.