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Sixty-sixth Session,
Virtual Meetings (AM & PM)
WOM/2217

Amid Changes in Working World, Government Ministers Spotlight National Efforts towards Female Economic Empowerment, as Women’s Commission Session Continues

The Commission on the Status of Women continued its work today, hearing presentations from 12 Member States about their national efforts to implement the agreed outcome on its 2017 session’s theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”.

Kateryna Levchenko, Ukraine’s Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy, said that, four years ago, changing laws lifted a ban on more than 450 professions for women, opening economic opportunities across sectors.  Since 2017, Ukraine has taken such steps as encouraging girls to study science and technology, reducing employment segregation and overcoming gender-based violence and discrimination.  However, Ukraine’s many plans were destroyed by the Russian Federation’s full-scale military invasion of her country on 24 February. Noting that the invasion has resulted in 3.2 million Ukrainian refugees leaving the country, most of them women and children, she said that, when the war ends, a real quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment will have to be made, including enhancing maternity protection and dismantling barriers in education.

Thomas Blomqvist, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, said as the world of work is changing, particularly through digitalization, gender perspectives must be integrated into related policies, and efforts must also accelerate to reduce gender segregation in the labour market.  The gender pay gap remains a persistent problem, she said, highlighting that the Government is in the process of introducing national legislation on pay transparency, and its national tripartite Equal Pay Programme includes conducts gender impact assessments of collective agreements.

Marta Lucia Ramírez, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, highlighting that, in 2030, her country will be the world’s leader in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, said the Government has put in place a policy of women’s economic empowerment that addresses structural barriers and introducing reforms.  Fiscal reform and changes in tax policy aim to put more women in the workforce and a special fund supports women-founded and women‑led start-ups.  Like other speakers, she stressed the role of the care economy, noting that Congress had approved a law that allows for parents to take 12 weeks of parental leave.  Colombia is the first country to issue sovereign gender bonds and has the lowest salary gap between men and women among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, South Africa’s Minister for Human Settlements, said that her country’s “Women Diggers” programme aims to increase the number of women in the mining sector, and the “Techno Girl” programme supports girls who are interested in pursuing careers in math, science and technology.  In 1994, women accounted for a mere 5 per cent of workers in senior management; by December 2021, they occupied 44 per cent of all management positions.  The political will at the highest level has been a key driver to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, she stressed.

Ensieh Khazali, Vice-President for Women and Family Affairs of Iran, said her Government has built technological infrastructure, strengthened women’s participation in cyberspace, allocated a budget for their education to enter virtual markets and implemented such national plans as the advancement of home employment.  As a result, women now comprise 48 per cent of technology users and 23 per cent of mobile application developers, and they are the main part of the driving force of digital evolution.

Several speakers highlighted how their countries are coping with the COVID‑19 pandemic’s negative impact on women.  Maya Morsy, President of the National Council for Women of Egypt, said her Government rolled out a rapid response and described how her country led the North Africa and Arab region in that regard.  Cairo also led the initiative to adopt a General Assembly resolution, with the objective of ensuring that women do not lose jobs during the pandemic.

Also making voluntary presentations were ministers and representatives from Georgia, Armenia, Germany, Uganda, Argentina and Chile.

The Commission also heard the introduction of the Secretary-General’s report on “Review of the implementation of the agreed conclusions of the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women” (document E/CN.6/2022/4) by Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Programme, Civil Society and Intergovernmental Support of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 22 March, to resume its general discussion.

Review of 2017 Session Theme

The Commission on the Status of Women held an interactive discussion to review progress in the implementation of its sixty-first session’s outcome on the theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”, hearing voluntary presentations from 12 Member States.

MAYA MORSY, President of the National Council for Women of Egypt, said that her country has a strong legislative and constitutional framework for the economic empowerment of women.  The 2014 Constitution and its amendments, particularly article 11, guarantee women’s political, economic, social and cultural rights.  Egypt launched “Strategic Vision 2030” focusing on sustainable development, with an emphasis on Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality.  The Government works with partners, such as the World Economic Forum, to close gender gaps.  Egypt rolled out a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic for women, she said, describing how her country led the North Africa and Arab region in that regard.  Cairo also led the initiative to adopt a General Assembly resolution on COVID-19 response, with the objective of ensuring that women do not lose jobs during the pandemic.  The Government has taken measures to improve women’s access to financial services.  As a result, the rate of women’s financial inclusion has reached 47.5 per cent.  Among other measures, Egypt established a social security law in 2019 and amended the labour law to ensure equality in the labour market, lifting restrictions for women to work at night and improving safety for them in public transportation.  It also instituted a paternal leave system, with men being able to take leave for up to two years without pay.  Egypt’s wage policy is also gender-sensitive.

The representative of Nigeria asked how Egypt’s national human rights strategy is linked to women’s economic empowerment.

The representative of Egypt said his country adopted its first-ever strategy for human rights in 2021; the strategy’s four pillars are aligned with the four pillars of the national women’s empowerment strategy of 2017.

A speaker from Global Fund for Widowhood sought more information about national efforts related to widows.

The representative of Egypt said widows are covered by social protection under the law.

THOMAS BLOMQVIST, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, outlined progress and challenges in several areas, including family-leave reform to give both parents an equal quota; efforts to ensure that all children have a right to early childhood education and care; and free and high-quality education, which has contributed to promoting gender equality in professions and women’s equal participation in the labour market.  Still, the gender pay gap remains a persistent problem requiring concrete measures to resolve the matter.  Finland is in the process of introducing national legislation on pay transparency, and its national tripartite Equal Pay Programme includes such measures as the gender impact assessments of collective agreements.  As the world of work is changing, particularly through digitalization, gender perspectives must be integrated into related policies, and efforts must also accelerate to reduce gender segregation in the labour market.  To address this segregation — which maintains gender stereotypes and has a detrimental effect on the labour market — the Government has launched a broad-based project to develop new kinds of tools for dismantling this trend in working life.  Efforts must be enhanced to ensure women’s full and equal participation he said, adding that:  “For this, we need policies, and we also need [an] attitude change in our societies; it is our shared task, as policymakers, as members of society — as women and as men — to work towards this common goal.”

A representative of the Coalition of Finnish Women’s Association NYTKIS, said that, despite gains, the education sectors in Finland are still highly gender segregated; particularly when students move from primary to secondary or vocational studies according to a 2021 study.  Even more effective action is required when improving the education system.  The Government’s family‑leave reform represents a huge step in the right direction towards gender equality, but should include an active follow-up after its implementation with a readiness for possible subsequent remedial steps.  Researchers have identified gender‑equality shortcomings in Finland’s COVID-19 policy, with compensatory benefit levels being lower compared to similar measures in other countries.  As segregated work and family life and gender stereotypes affect the role of women in political, she said that under a municipal law a compensation plan has been established to arrange temporary childcare for the duration of the municipal council and committee meetings, but practices vary, and provisions are not implemented nationwide.

The representative of South Africa, commending progress, asked about the rate of women’s participation in the labour force, how Finland is addressing the wage gap in the public and private sector, and how the fourth industrial revolution programme enables them to help marginalized women address COVID-19 challenges.  She asked for details on Finland’s approach to prevent gender-based violence, including in the workplace, and also wondered how the Government was working towards tackling social norms that are detrimental to women.

The representative of Equality Now’s Global Lead, Legal Equality and Access to Justice said that, according to the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law Group, however, only 12 countries have achieved full legal equality, with Finland coming very close to joining.  Welcoming Finland’s many efforts, she said the next frontier is ensuring that laws governing family relationships do not perpetuate such unequal power relations as marriage, divorce and widowhood, child custody matters and property inheritance.  Calling upon Member States to re-energize their efforts for women’s economic empowerment, she said actions must include repealing or amending all sex discriminatory laws, without exception for religious or customary law, and adopting robust, legal equality and non-discrimination frameworks, including in the digital online realm.

HANNA ONWEN-HUMA, Senior Specialist at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, recognizing these needs, said the Government is currently changing a law on gender equality so that it will be compulsory to operationalize gender equality planning in the early childhood education and care.  Turning to Finland’s COVID-19 policy shortcomings, she said this example shows how easily the gender perspective is forgotten or put aside when facing a crisis.  Indeed, efforts must ensure that gender mainstreaming is embedded in the administration and every official and actor is aware of the gender relevance in their work.  Discriminatory laws and legal inequality leave the full economic potential of global and national economies untapped, she said, adding that no country can achieve its full potential without the equal economic participation of women and men.

MARTA LUCIA RAMÍREZ, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, said her country has a road map for gender equality for the next nine years.  In 2030, Colombia will be the world’s leader in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality.  The Government has put in place a policy of women’s economic empowerment, addressing structural barriers and introducing reforms.  The first of the five-pillar policy aims to put more women in the workforce through various measures, including fiscal reform and changes in tax policy.  The second pillar is to support women entrepreneurs.  Colombia established a special fund for women-founded and women-led start-ups.  The proceeds from the mining sector are channelled to fund women entrepreneurs.  Third, the Government focuses on greater access for women in science and technology.  Fourth, there must be more women on management boards.  Fifth, she stressed the role of the care economy, noting that Congress had approved a law that allows for parents to take 12 weeks of parental leave.  Colombia is the first country to issue sovereign gender bonds and has the lowest salary gap between men and women among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, she said.  It is also ranked thirteenth in gender equality in the world and first in Latin America.

The representative of Sweden asked how the fund operates.

The representative of Colombia said the fund is independent and it provides credit lines for rural women.

A speaker from the Colombian Chamber of Construction said the construction sector is male-dominated, with 93 per cent of workers being men.  A year ago, an awareness-raising campaign was launched to increase hiring of women in the sector.  The Chamber is training women so that they can get jobs in the construction sector.

The representative of Colombia said that the next two Governments must continue the legacy that the current administration has created.

ENSIEH KHAZALI, Vice‑President for Women and Family Affairs of Iran, said the Constitution stresses the importance of removing unjust discrimination and providing fair facilities and services for all citizens.  Women’s rights in the workforce — protected by the labour code, social security law, the charter for citizen rights and the law for supporting and organizing home employment — have led to increases in their rate of employment, to 41 per cent in 2021 from 34 per cent in 2009.  Over the past four decades, policies and laws have eradicated girls’ and women’s illiteracy, bridged the education gender gap at elementary and high schools.  Women now comprise 52 per cent of university students and 34 per cent of faculty members.  The Government has built technological infrastructure, strengthened women’s participation in cyberspace, allocated a budget for their education to enter virtual markets and implemented such national plans as the advancement of home employment.  As a result, women now comprise 48 per cent of technology users and 23 per cent of mobile application developers, and they are the main part of the driving force of digital evolution.  Today, women comprise 45 per cent of mobile phone users, 48 per cent of laptop and desktop users and 48 per cent of Internet users.  However, economic terrorism and unilateral, unlawful and coercive sanctions have threatened and jeopardized the life, health, livelihood status and progress of Iranians, with women being hurt the most.

A speaker from Padjadjaran University in Indonesia, emphasizing that the data just presented are quite surprising given outsiders’ very different perceptions about the fate of women under an Islamic government system, asked how Iranian women respond to various concerns over implementing Islamic sharia in a country and how to prove that Islam does not prevent women from developing and achieving the highest achievements in their lives.

A speaker from Sigmund Freud University in Austria asked what Iran has done for women’s employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, what the Government is doing to ensure women’s health in work environments and anti-pollution measures, safeguarding clean air and soil, and what steps and measures are being taken to ensure women’s employment in the face of climate change and natural disasters.

A speaker from academia in Pakistan asked about steps the Government has taken for women’s education to increase their numbers in digital markets and plans to address the negative impact of economic sanctions on women and on their job opportunities.

Ms. KHAZALI said Iran’s pandemic-related actions include efforts to make digital businesses prosperous, the launch of virtual shops and malls and investments for home businesses.  She pointed to World Bank statistics showing that Iranian women’s activities grew from 12 per cent to 24 per cent in 2020, and the entrepreneurship index of women compared to men stands at 63 per cent.  While the sanctions led to many problems concerning employment — mostly women’s employment — the situation also led to fresh achievements, inventions and innovations at various scientific and technological levels.  Iran’s Comprehensive Health Plan for Women has seen lower death rates and higher life expectancy.  With regard to whether the abidance and adherence to the Sharia hinders women’s activities and professions, she said:  “To put it frankly:  No.”  Since Iranian women enjoy hijab and chastity, they experience healthy environments in their working fields and other such areas as sports, she said, recalling that women who observed the dress code have won 3,302 global medals.

NIKO TATULASHVILI, Adviser to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights Issues, said that gender equality machinery operating in his country brings together several organs, among them the Inter-Agency Commission on Gender Equality.  The second National Human Rights Strategy for 2022-2030 has a separate chapter dedicated to gender equality, with a focus on women’s economic empowerment.  In 2021, the Government adopted a new strategy 2021-2025 on small and medium-sized enterprises to harness the economic potential of women.  The National Science Foundation of Georgia is supporting women researchers in science, technology, engineering and math, adding a gender dimension in research by shaping gender-sensitive methodology.  The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development is addressing the gender digital divide and supporting Internet access nationwide.  Georgia’s gender-oriented policies have led to stable and promising results, he said, noting that, in the World Bank Group 2021 Index on Women, Business and the Law, the overall score for Georgia is higher than the regional average observed across Europe and Central Asia.  In addition, the gap between women and men, as measured by the Gender Inequality Index is narrowing every year.

The country representative of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) said that, with robust technical support from UN-Women, Georgia has joined the Generation Equality global mobilization, committing to accelerate progress on the fight against gender-based violence and innovation and technology for gender equality.  The country ratified the 2017 Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.  She asked Georgia to elaborate on its economic rehabilitation services to the victims and survivors of domestic violence, including specialized support services, health‑care and social services, promotion of employment and skills development.

The representative of Lithuania sought more information about the policy, regulatory, practical and other measures that Georgia is taking to encourage women and promote their transition from the informal to the formal economy and ensure proper and safe labour conditions for women.

Mr. TATULASHVILI said that the amendments were made to Georgian legislation in February 2019 to provide for decent working conditions free of discrimination.  The amendments made it mandatory for employers to observe the principle of equality not only in contractual labour relations, but also during precontractual relations.  The September 2020 amendments to the Labour Code provide for paid maternity leave of up to 126 calendar days and 57 days of paid childcare leave.  Both parents are entitled to childcare leave for 604 calendar days.

TATEVIK STEPANYAN, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia, said that, despite reform efforts, challenges remain related to accessing resources and opportunities.  This is often exacerbated by difficulties stemming from the pandemic, as well as fragile security and conflict across the region.  Guided by international instruments, Armenia has adopted laws, labour codes and a gender policy and is implementing various measures aimed at promoting gender equality, from improving the legal framework to building market-relevant skills.  A quota for women’s representation in elective bodies was established within the framework of legislative reforms, and as a result, women’s involvement in the legislature reached 23 per cent.  A gender-sensitive component has been ensured in all State budget programmes since 2020, reflecting the goals of gender equality and social justice.  The State co-funds domestic violence victims’ support centres in all regions, and in 2021, around 1,516 victims received assistance, 160 women and children benefited from the shelter service and 88 women secured their jobs.  Efforts also aim at preventing gender discrimination and providing vocational training programmes.  In response to the pandemic and the war unleashed by Azerbaijan against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Government has taken measures to mitigate the consequences of the dual crises on the most vulnerable groups, with a special focus on the needs of women and girls.  Within the framework of the five-year Action Plan of the Government (2021-2026), several measures have been taken to promote gender equality in all spheres of public life.

A speaker from the OxYGen Foundation for the Protection of Youth and Women’s Rights asked which Government strategies use gender equality principles to address issues related to persons with disabilities.

A speaker from the Women’s Support Centre, said Armenia has come a long way — from a recent domestic violence law to the opening of centres for victims — but there is a long way to go.  In this vein, she said subsidies for support centres must increase, and more policies are needed to promote the equality for women.

The Head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Office in Armenia asked what the Government is doing to address the enormous demographic challenges it faces.

Ms. STEPANYAN said a policy setting out action-oriented goals and a new Government programme to ensure the equal participation of men and women has a focus on youth, persons with disabilities and other groups.  Citing developments to combat violence against women, she pointed to a new Government action plan that assists related activities, including by supporting resource centres in various regions and offering training to provide quality care for victims.  Work is also being done to address domestic violence, including a cross-ministry awareness campaign and the development of data‑collection mechanisms.  The Government is addressing demographic challenges — which were exacerbated by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and COVID-19 — with national strategies that promote gender equality.

EKIN DELIGÖZ, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany, said that her presentation outlines national efforts and also addresses the questions posed by Colombia, who asked how Germany is trying to overcome the gender pay gap and what steps have been taken to promote decent paid care and domestic work in the public and private sectors.  In Germany, a minimum wage was introduced in 2015, and it has since been gradually increased.  The majority of those benefiting from this increase are women.  The 2017 Act to Promote Transparency in Pay Structures among Women and Men seeks to more effectively enforce women’s right to equal pay for equal work.  The 2019 Act to Improve Wages in the Care Sector provides a legal basis for setting binding minimum wage levels for the care sector.  The Government introduced a parental allowance in 2007 and, in 2015 it significantly expanded the child daycare provision to improve work-life balance.  All children in her country have the right to a place in daycare from the age of one.  The Act on Providing All-Day Care and Education for Primary School Children was adopted in September 2021, a milestone for families as it will gradually introduce a legal entitlement to all-day care for primary school children, starting in 2026.  Germany is also supporting the promotion of women in management positions at various levels.  The Act on the Equal Participation of Women and Men in Leadership Positions in the Private and the Public Sector has already introduced a fixed gender quota of 30 per cent for the supervisory boards of major listed companies.  At these companies, women now account for around 35 per cent of board members, she said.

KATERYNA LEVCHENKO, Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy of Ukraine, said that, despite divisions among citizens since 1999, occupation since 2014 and a subsequent hybrid war, her country had been continuing to build and develop societies based on the principles of justice, democracy, human rights and gender equality.  Women are equal and active participants of all social and economic processes, making up 60 per cent of those in higher education and 62 per cent of the labour market.  Four years ago, changing laws lifted a ban on more than 450 professions for women, opening economic opportunities across sectors.  Since 2017, Ukraine has taken such steps as encouraging girls to study science and technology, reducing employment segregation and overcoming gender‑based violence and discrimination.  However, Ukraine’s many plans with partners from civil society and such international organizations as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) were destroyed because of the Russian Federation’s full-scale military invasion of her country on 24 February.  Citing Ukraine’s strong resistance against a landscape of the widespread death, attacks and the occupation of territory, she said the war has resulted in 3.2 million Ukrainian refugees leaving the country, most of them women and children.  Going forward, she said:  “We understand that after the end of the war, after our victory — we do not have doubt — we will face many new problems and challenging in economy and in women economic empowerment and we must already develop mechanisms to respond to them.”

The representative of Georgia, condemning the Russian Federation’s actions and calling on Moscow to end the war, asked what the international community and organizations can do to help Ukraine increase the meaningful participation of women in economic recovery due to the current ongoing war and after the war.

The representative of the Republic of Moldova, also condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, asked for recommendations for the foreign Governments in assisting refugees — who are mostly women — to become economically independent and strengthen their economic capacity.

Ms. LEVCHENKO said that, when the war ends, a real quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment will have to be made.  Actions may include enhancing maternity protection, dismantling barriers in education and introducing zero tolerance to any display of discrimination, violence and harassment with an effective prevention machinery.  The consequences of the Russian invasion will be the “litmus test” for receiving countries and their implementation of the European Council Directive on minimum standards for giving temporary protection to refugees, she said, adding that integrative services should address their needs.

BETTY AMONGI AKENA, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda, said that her country’s Vision 2040 aims at transitioning from an agricultural country to a modern and prosperous one by 2040.  The National Development Plan III (2021-2025) seeks to increase household incomes and improve the quality of life by reducing inequalities at all levels.  Uganda is a signatory to several international and regional instruments on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The 1995 Constitution has clear provisions for gender equality.  The Government has also strengthened its legal framework, adopting the Land Act, Succession Amendment Bill and the Equal Opportunities Act, among others.  The Government also implemented gender-responsive programmes spending $13 billion over a five-year period.  By 2014, the pace of growth of women-owned enterprises had outpaced that of male-owned businesses by 1.5 times.  The Agricultural Credit Facility is intended to promote the commercialization of agriculture, with women accounting for 16 per cent of the beneficiaries.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda has been using online platforms to allow women in business to sell and buy.  The Government is working with the World Bank on the “GROW Programme” to enhance the economic and social empowerment of women entrepreneurs in the project targeted areas, aiming to make $200 million available for financing women-owned and -led small and medium-size enterprises.

ELIZABETH GÓMEZ ALCORTA, Minister for Women, Gender and Diversity of Argentina, noting the Commission’s previous recommendations to promote transformative public policies where structural inequalities exist, said that efforts are addressing the pandemic-triggered loss of more than a decade of gender‑equality gains.  Government policies centre on care and addressing the fundamental challenges facing women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons regarding their entry into the labour force, also aiming at properly paying those who have decided to dedicate their lives to caregiving.  In 2021, the President of Argentina announced the presentation of two draft laws related to equal parental leave and to care.  Recognizing care work is key, she said, adding that a newly introduced “care map” includes different types of services in public, private and community sectors.  Argentina has established an inter-ministerial round table that aims to work with national and state bodies in a coordinated way to address care-related issues.  Other economic empowerment policies include the launch of a project that assists communities to address gender-based violence against women and LGBTI+ persons and a new law to establish that at least 1 per cent of ministry staff must be transgender.

The representative of Mexico asked about measures the ministry is taking to prevent gender violence in the workplace in the context of the pandemic and other related measures.

The representative of Spain asked how Argentina is dealing with the economic empowerment of women and ensuring their rights are respected in the world of work.

Ms. GÓMEZ ALCORTA said the pandemic has worsened inequalities and the gender gap, so the Government is working to change that through such efforts as parental leave in the private sector and a “quarantine with rights” programme to ensure a fairer distribution of work in the home and protection for care workers.

MMAMOLOKO KUBAYI-NGUBANE, Minister for Human Settlements of South Africa, said that, in November 2021, South Africa ratified ILO Convention 190 which deals with violence and harassment in the world of work.  The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Strategy for the energy sector 2021-2025 has been developed to serve as a vehicle to implement women’s economic empowerment programmes, employment, retention and promotion of women, capacity-building, enterprise‑development and institutionalization of gender-based budgeting to ensure that development of women in the energy sector is achieved.  To unlock women’s access to land, the Beneficiary Selection and Land Allocation Policy was published in 2020.  The policy states that 50 per cent of all land acquired by Government must be allocated to smallholders, with no less than 50 per cent of this to be allocated to women.  The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality strategy for the energy sector, launched on 31 August 2021, focuses on capacity-building.  The “Women Diggers” programme aims to increase the number of women in the mining sector.  South Africa’s “Techno Girl” programme supports girls who are interested in pursuing careers in math, science and technology.  In 1994 women accounted for a mere 5 per cent in senior management. In December 2021, women represented 44 per cent of all management positions.  It is worth highlighting that the political will at the highest level has been a key driver to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The representative of Finland said South Africa’s efforts on gender equality are impressive.  She asked what policies South Africa put in place to include gender mainstreaming in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and how South Africa tackles the issue of uneven division of care work.  She also sought more information about South Africa’s efforts in the Generation Equality process.

The representative of Uganda asked what progress have been realized and what plans and strategies are being implemented to ensure the sustainability of results in reducing the gender pay gap.  She also wished to know how the increased number of women in leadership translated into substantive gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Ms. KUBAYI-NGUBANE said that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit women harder, particularly in the informal sector where most workers are women.  The Economic Reconstruction Plan aims to bring women into better positions than before, and it is in the second year of implementation.  The principle of equal pay for equal work must be upheld.  The issue of unpaid work must be addressed.  Her country, like others, still has a lot to do.  Women in leadership positions still take care of children at home.  The value of unpaid work is recognized by the court system.  Women now occupy 50 per cent of cabinet posts.

ANTONIA ORELLANA, Minister for Women and Gender of Chile, said the new Government has taken steps to address the impact of the pandemic and ensuing labour crisis, as female participation in the labour market is among the worst in the region, worsening still during the pandemic, which rolled back a decade of progress.  A sustainable economy is the national goal, with women’s full participation, she said, adding that priorities over the next four years include enhancing the judicial framework and establishing gender parity and equality in the Constitution.  Noting that some laws can be strengthened, she said focus areas will include economic violence against women in the workplace.  Citing other areas of action, she said a national care system aims at ending the inequality of care workers.  While there is currently no existing concept of social security, efforts aim to bolster the institutional framework to develop this and other social protection measures.  Initiatives will work on education and adaption in areas where women are underrepresented, and the Government will prioritize the redesign of salary scales to ensure a universal equality in the labour market alongside training programmes to offer opportunities to establish jobs in new sectors.  Meanwhile, local agencies are taking leadership roles in ensuring diversity in employing women in the private sector.

The representative of Argentina asked what opportunities exist for cooperation on policies in terms of care work and to ensure the promotion and participation of women in the labour market.

The Director of the Gender Affairs Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) asked what priorities will ensure the participation of women and girls in knowledge-based sectors.

Ms. ORELLANA said Chile will work towards a pandemic recovery while seeking relationships with regional partners to improve the lives of women, including by addressing gender-based violence.  The pandemic, with all the ensuing horrors, laid bare the crisis of caregiving and provided an opportunity to address the issue in a transparent manner, given examples of solutions from other countries.  Noting that the United Nations has been promoting the role of women and girls in facing the effects of climate change, she said Chile is working on programmes to address existing challenges of inequalities in this area.

For information media. Not an official record.