Business forum “Economic empowerment of women in Central Asia and Afghanistan on the path of sustainable development” starts in Tashkent
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- The International Business Forum “Expanding the Economic Empowerment of Women in Central Asia and Afghanistan on the Path of Sustainable Development” has started its work in Tashkent.
This forum is dedicated to empowering women in the fight against COVID-19, recognizing and reducing the burden of unpaid care and domestic work for women, promoting women’s entrepreneurship by providing inclusive education, skills development and decent work, and identifying and developing capacities. gifted girls and women.
Forum participants are representatives of Uzbekistan, Central Asia and Afghanistan, national and regional structures, international organizations, governments, representatives of the private sector (including technology companies), led by women, NGOs, research organizations and educational institutions, investment companies, financial and credit organizations, mass media.
Addressing gender equality and the empowerment of women in economic, social and environmental development strategies is recognized as critical to sustainable development, and the 17 goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Women, including in rural areas, play an important role in the economy and society in both developing and developed countries. Around the world, women have proven their commitment and ingenuity in ways to improve their lives and the well-being of their families and communities. Uzbekistan ranked 62nd out of 162 countries in the UNDP 2019 Gender Inequality Index (for comparison, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan rank 82nd and 70th respectively on this index). According to the latest data from the World Economic Forum, the Global Gender Gap Index and Gender Equality Index ranks Kazakhstan at 47th, Kyrgyzstan at 100th, Tajikistan at 125th and Afghanistan at 156th in efforts to achieve gender equality in education. and health care, while Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are not included in this index.
Gender equality is both a fundamental human right and a key to economic growth. Women are the backbone and vital human resource for economic growth and development. The prosperity of a nation depends on the prosperity of women, their advancement and empowerment in the economy and entrepreneurship. Providing women with opportunities for economic development by removing social and structural barriers to their progress will benefit families and nations. Women contribute to the economy by working in public and private companies, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees. Above all, they support society and the economy by doing most of the unpaid household and care work, which in turn limits their participation in the workforce. The economic empowerment of women is critical to promoting gender equality, reducing poverty and improving access to services such as health care and education. Conversely, women’s lack of economic opportunity affects all societies and limits economic potential for all, with women from minorities and socially vulnerable groups most likely to face particularly serious problems.
Across Central Asia, it is women who are most affected by the effects of poverty, gender discrimination, gender wage gaps, exploitation and limited career and promotion opportunities. The subregion has moderate levels of gender inequality, with some areas of serious concern. For example, women are mainly employed in traditional occupations such as domestic work, health care, education, retail and tourism, with limited access to leadership positions. Women also lack access to factors of production such as land, labor and capital, which are critical to their empowerment. For example, the proportion of women with landowning status is estimated at just 17 percent in Tajikistan, 12.4 percent in Kyrgyzstan, and 19 percent in Uzbekistan.
Women are also more likely to face poverty because of discriminatory social norms that affect their access to decent employment. Despite significant steps taken to empower women in the world of work, significant gender gaps and challenges remain. For example, the impact of digital technology and labor market automation can threaten low-skilled and labor-intensive sectors dominated by women, while their responsibilities in the household often prevent women from being more active in the labor market. Evidence shows that in Central Asia, women perform a much higher share of unpaid domestic and care work than men.
In Uzbekistan, small case studies conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic showed that rural women spent 60 percent of their time at home, compared with 11.5 percent of men. Moreover, the data show that up to 33 percent of women of working age in this country are engaged in unpaid care work as their main occupation, compared with 3 percent of men of working age. About half of mahallas surveyed during the COVID-19 pandemic reported that the burden of unpaid care and household work on women has increased (“significantly” - about 15 percent - or “slightly”).
Since men are often abroad as migrant workers, women are left with responsibility for family, household and family agricultural plots without the necessary resources and skills to carry out all these activities. Despite their relatively high levels of education, growing numbers of migrant women tend to be domestic workers and struggle for low-paid and vulnerable jobs.
COVID-19 exacerbates existing gender inequalities. A rapid gender assessment by UN Women in 16 countries in Europe and Central Asia highlighted that more than 40% of women were in lower-paid jobs during the 2020 pandemic. Loss of paid work time affected more young women in the 18–34 age group. In 6 out of 10 countries / territories, young women (18–34 years old) were more likely to report reduced hours of work (but no job loss) than women in other age groups. At the same time, the economic situation of women aged 35–54 was even more affected in four countries, and the data show that the highest gender differences were observed in North Macedonia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (5%). Self-employed women were particularly affected by the outbreak, with 25% losing their jobs (versus 21% of self-employed men) and another 49% with reduced hours of work (versus 53% for men). Reduced working hours or job loss have particularly affected self-employed women in Kazakhstan (81%), Azerbaijan (80%), Turkey (82%) and Kyrgyzstan (77%). As shown by the UNDP / UN Women Global Gender Response Tracking Framework, as of March 2021, only 13% of the 2,280 financial, social protection and labor market responses to COVID-19 target the economic security of women (up from 10% in September 2020).
To promote women’s participation in the productive economy, several factors need to be addressed. These include revising labor market legislation and policies to increase women’s participation in the labor market, promoting equal pay for work of equal value, prohibiting discrimination in the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in the public and private sectors, and recognition and redistribution. unpaid care work. Unpaid domestic and care work is a critical factor in women’s ability to participate in the labor market, government, education and training. Gender and family responsive public policies (e.g. paid parental leave, parental benefits, direct transfers to women caring for children), together with flexible working conditions, and private and public childcare services can help women return to paid employment and expand their economic opportunities.
The COVID-19 crisis has also had a significant impact on women-led businesses. Recent research by the UN and the World Bank showed that women entrepreneurs were hit harder by the crisis than men: 64 percent versus 52 percent. By starting and running businesses, women can achieve economic independence, overcome poverty through asset creation, and improve their own well-being, as well as the well-being of their families and communities. Even before the pandemic, women entrepreneurs faced additional barriers, lacking access to business networks, credit and banking services. In Uzbekistan, at least 24% of businesses are owned by women 11.1% of businesses are run by women. 42% of new small businesses in Uzbekistan are headed by women. The COVID-19 recovery policy provides an opportunity for governments to develop their gender-sensitive entrepreneurial policies that foster the resilience and growth of women’s businesses, and to shift policy focus from increasing the number of women entrepreneurs to supporting the sustainability and growth of their businesses.
Policy measures should aim to improve the business environment for women employed in SMEs by removing legal and regulatory barriers and constraints, as well as strengthening the institutional framework for SMEs to design and implement gender-sensitive policies.
Support systems should be established at the national and local levels offering information exchange, training and technical advice, and assistance to women in their collaboration with the private sector, governments, donors and financial institutions. Encouraging women entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized businesses is a priority in Central Asia and Afghanistan.
The name of the forum reflects the urgent global economic agenda for the development of economic rights and opportunities for women in the modern world.