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‘Women hold up half the sky’ is a Chinese proverb affirming women’s equal contribution to the human experience but it is an aspirational, rather than a factual, claim. In developed and developing countries alike, gender gaps persist in education, health, work, wages and political participation.
For this issue of Making It, the theme is gender equality and the economic empowerment of women. As Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, pointed out, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”.
Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours but women earn only 10% of the world’s income, and women own less than 1% of the world’s property. Women lag far behind men in access to land, credit, and decent jobs, even though a growing body of research shows that enhancing women’s economic options boosts national economies. As the current UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has said, “When we empower women, we empower communities, nations, and the entire human family.”
The first UN Women annual report, 2010-11, states, “Where women have equal access to economic assets, decent livelihoods and leadership opportunities – the building blocks of economic empowerment – economic well-being increases.”
We are delighted to have a keynote article on the challenge of empowering women by Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women. Making It thanks colleagues at UN Women for their help in putting this issue together.