While economic rights for women exist, they may not be enforced or women may not be able to claim these rights because of socio-cultural norms and practices, finds the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development.
The World survey is the flagship publication of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women is published every five years.
The 2009 Survey, dedicated to the theme of "women's control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance", makes the argument that increasing women's access to resources exerts strong multiplier effects on a range of development goals, including poverty reduction, child welfare and economic growth.
It also emphasizes that efforts are needed to make judicial systems more accessible and responsive to women and to provide legal aid to women seeking to claim their rights.
The Survey notes with particular concern the neglect in macroeconomic policies of the unequal distribution between women and men of paid and unpaid work. The Survey stresses the need for growth strategies which focus on gender-responsive employment promotion, informed by the interdependency between economic and social development, and the recognition that labour is "produced' by the mainly unpaid work of women, who are expected to take on primary responsibility for nurturing and sustaining the workforce. Economic growth strategies should give attention to the real economy, considering the totality of economic activities - productive and reproductive, paid and unpaid, formal and informal, and including social as well as economic objectives.
Women absent from decision-making
The Survey notes with concern, women's absence from key decision-making bodies influencing the distribution of resources in both public and private sectors, despite evidence on positive impacts of women's representation in decision making. Equal representation of women in all areas of economic decision-making, including at the highest levels in Government ministries, international organizations, corporate boards and the banking sector, needs to be pursued.
The urgency of rethinking economic growth strategies and increasing attention to women's economic empowerment is even greater in the current financial and economic crisis. The impact of the crisis can exacerbate the challenges women face in many parts of the world and reduce resources for gender equality. Stimulus packages should be directed at equal employment opportunities and at social as well as physical infrastructure. Gender-responsive budgeting is required to ensure adequate levels of funding for gender equality and empowerment of women to withstand the effects of the crisis.
The report can be accessed at: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/public/WorldSurvey2009.pdf