A WFTU delegation composed of Sonia Mabunda Kazinoni COSATU South Africa international relations and Anda Anastasaki WFTU Executive Secretary participates in the UN sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women which will take place from 6 to 17 March 2023 which consider the priority theme of, “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. The session will also review the agreed conclusions of the sixty-second session, “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”.
The World Federation of Trade Union, having a consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, participates in the side events, in the United Nations roundtable on enhancing capacity to support the needs and rights of victims of terrorism. The wftu intervention is : WFTU believes that the debate lacks a substantial highlighting of the causes of the phenomenon. Who supports international terrorist networks? Who benefits from the activities of such organisations in Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East? Should we connect it to the big picture of wealth and energy routes?
Moreover, the WFTU delegation realized meeting with WFTU affiliates and friends in the USA, including the Amazon workers, Building workers local 79, transport workers, and the Republic democratic of Congo and intervened in the discussion promoting the class analysis on this year’s topic as well as on the challenges and role of working women in trade unions and in society in general.
Can digital technology help create a more gender-equal society?
Ninety percent of countries have at least one legal barrier to women owning property, receiving an inheritance, or opening a bank account. Only six countries in the world give women equal work rights as men. And at 49 percent, the global female labor force participation rate is 27 percentage points lower than that of men.
These are just some examples of how, despite the considerable progress that has been made in achieving gender parity, the inequalities faced by women remain a major global challenge.
This imbalance between genders not only robs women of equal opportunity and dignity, it is also costly for societies. Several studies have shown that a more gender-balanced world would not only benefit women but everyone. A recent study by the International Monetary Fund found that women bring new skills to the workplace, increasing economic benefits for all, including boosting male wages. Further, the study also implies that standard models, which do not differentiate between genders in their analysis, understate the favorable impact of gender inclusion on growth, and misattribute to technology a part of growth that is actually caused by women’s participation. More specifically, they predict that for countries ranking in the bottom-half for gender equality, closing the gender gap could increase gross domestic product by 35 percent on average.
Women, financial inclusion, and development
Evidence suggests that greater control of household finances by women, either through cash transfers or increased personal earnings, can have significant positive effects on women themselves and their households. Studies show that access to financial products designed to help women retain control over resources can lead to more decision making power, better risk management, smoother consumption in the face of shocks, and/or increased household welfare, such as through increased expenditure on education.
For example, a study in the Philippines shows that the opening of a goal-based commitment account increased savings by 81 percent and resulted in greater bargaining power for women within the household, increased expenditure on household consumer durables (washing machines, sewing machines, electric irons, kitchen appliances, air-conditioning units, fans, and stoves) and other durables (vehicles/motorcycles, entertainment, and recreational goods) and were particularly attractive to less empowered women. Further, in Nepal, easily accessible, no-fee savings accounts were offered to female heads of households living in slums and resulted in an uptake of 84 percent of women opening an account, which boosted spending on education and nutritious foods.
The evidence highlights how providing women with the right financial tools can support women’s empowerment and result in better outcomes for not only women but also children, household welfare, and the wider community. However, on the flip side, studies have found that access to financial resources do not consistently enhance women’s economic empowerment, partly due to restrictive gender norms and household dynamics. Can technology help overcome these barriers women face?
The role of digital technology
While there is no silver bullet for achieving gender parity, digital technology presents an opportunity to narrow gender gaps by enhancing access to welfare services, identification (ID), and financial services and information.
Access to digitally transferred resources allows for greater privacy and security. Switching to digitally transferred grants or loans could overcome prevalent social norms, such as other members of households claiming control on women’s income and savings, allowing women to have more financial control and empower them to push back on restrictive gender norms. Further, the World Bank argues that the widespread proliferation of mobile phones in low- and middle-income countries combined with the decreasing cost of biometric technology presents a transformative solution to capturing identification data and improving the ability of the state to reach and serve the population, including especially disadvantaged groups like poor, rural women. Securing identification for women is imperative, as possession of government recognized identification enables them, in many contexts, to assert their legal rights, access financial services, and claim entitlements to social programs for their children and themselves.
Digital payment and ID systems can help empower women in many different ways:
Increasing privacy, bargaining power, household welfare, and female labor force participation
The private nature of the digital payments, as opposed to cash, help women maintain privacy and security of the funds. Results from a 2016 study in Niger found that paying the transfer directly into the mobile wallets of women, as opposed to providing them cash, may have affected the distribution of intra-household bargaining power. More specifically, digital transfers often provide more privacy and security making it more difficult for their spouse to observe the arrival of the transfer, digital social transfer programs may provide women with more decision making power around how the transfer is spent. Further, delivering cash transfers targeted to women digitally through mobile money improved dietary diversity compared to traditional cash delivery, and girls living in poor households with female pension recipients demonstrated better nutrition than those with just male recipients.
Now is the time to stir up the indignation. Rouse the consciousness of the masses of women. We affirm our demands for the importance of adopting policies, legislation, and laws that ensure the achievement of non-discrimination against women and provide protection for them, especially in Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and all areas where women suffer from killing, torture, displacement and lack of security and safety.
On this International Working Women’s Day, the women of WFTU stand up with conviction to say loud and clear: “Working women demand equity and equality. We say No to imperialistic wars. We shall not compromise on our rights”.