Promoting women’s economic empowerment when rebuilding after the COVID-19 pandemic essential, say participants at OSCE meeting

VIENNA/STOCKHOLM, 10 June 2021 – Women have disproportionately suffered socio-economic consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic. At today’s 2nd Preparatory meeting of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum (EEF) participants stressed the need for policies that will ensure a more level playing field for women, now that a return to ‘normalcy’ seems within reach. Promoting equal opportunities for women is a key factor for securing prosperity, stability and security.

Chaired by the 2021 Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship, the two-day meeting focuses on women’s economic empowerment as a means to promote comprehensive security, stability and sustainable development in the OSCE area.

UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme are projecting that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line, reversing decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty.

“The pandemic has made visible existing structural barriers for women and girls’ economic empowerment. When we are rebuilding from the pandemic, we have a chance to make it right,” said Swedish Minister for Foreign Trade and Nordic Affairs Anna Hallberg during the opening session, where she was joined by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Fatmire Isaki, and the President of the Swedish Trade Union Kommunal, Tobias Baudin.

“Work to strengthen women’s role on the labour market, women-owned businesses, and women’s entrepreneurship must be prioritized when we build forward together,” Hallberg said.

The OSCE plays a role as a platform to share good practices on gender-responsive approaches to trade, transport and environmental co-operation. The pandemic has shown how social dialogue can mitigate the impact of a crisis on the economy and help shape solutions.

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid said that creating a socioeconomic environment that responds to the needs of both men and women is instrumental for promoting cohesive, prosperous, inclusive and secure societies. “I encourage all of you to consider the benefits of addressing the economic gender gap — as well as the costs of inaction. At this juncture, women’s economic participation and empowerment are perhaps more critical than ever.”

Research by McKinsey, before the pandemic, suggested that global annual GDP could be 26 per cent higher by 2025, compared to 2015, if women and men participated equally in the economy.

The concluding meeting of the 29th OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum is envisaged to take place on 9 and 10 September in Prague.

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