Assistant Secretary-General, Dear Åsa,
Dear panelists, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us at our event on women and poverty eradication. I am pleased that the EU Delegation and the Permanent Mission of China partner again this year during CSW.
Women and girls remain disproportionality affected by poverty on all continents, despite progress in some middle-income countries.
Women earn 24 percent less than men globally and at the current rate, we will need to wait until 2190 (170 years) to close the gender pay gap. In addition, women continue to be disproportionally represented in the informal economy - where they are less likely to have employment contracts, legal rights or social protection, and are often not paid enough to escape poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these challenges. In these trying times, States must redouble efforts to respect, protect and fulfil all human rights, including for women and girls.
In many community areas, increased poverty in turn means reduced access to education and to essential health services for women and girls, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. It also means higher risks for women and girls to be submitted to gender-based violence, early pregnancy and child, early and forced marriage.
The feminization of poverty has a terrible cost for women and girls, but it also has also a terrible cost for all our societies. The loss in human capital wealth due to gender inequality is estimated at $160 trillion. Empowering women and girls is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. And it concerns all our countries.
26 years year ago, in Beijing, the international community committed to change economic policies to provide more opportunities for women, improve laws to uphold economic rights, and boost access to credit. We have a common responsibility to uphold the promise of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Inside the European Union, the European Pillar of Social Rights, a common commitment by the EU and its Member States, responds to this ambition, and we are now preparing a specific Action Plan, which aims to reflect the impact of COVID-19. In our external action, as the largest provider of Official Development Assistance in the world, we support partner countries to address challenges in the implementation of all 17 SDGs, including the eradication of poverty, and follow a human rights-based and gender-transformative approach to development.
What the COVID-19 crisis has confirmed once again is that while women and girls are disproportionally affected by crises, they are also leading the response and the recovery. As front line workers, as leaders, as agents of change, women and girls play a crucial role in all spheres of society. As we prepare to build back better and more equal, we must implement gender-responsive social protection and fiscal policies, and facilitate women access to financial and business services, including credit and capital markets.
Eradicating poverty is only possible bottom-up: it requires the active involvement of the persons concerned. It also implies the engagement of civil society actors, including NGOs. Let me in that regard reiterate the strong support of the EU to the efforts and independence of civil society organisations, including women-led and feminist organisations, who do an essential work in sometimes very challenging legal and political conditions.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The EU strongly supports the Secretary-General’s Call to Action on Human Rights as well as his leadership in placing human rights at the core of the response to the pandemic. The existence of widespread poverty inhibits the full and effective enjoyment of human rights, renders democracy fragile and creates barriers to the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in political and public life.
For these reasons, human rights defenders, who conduct public education actions, denounce corruption, advocate for stronger oversight of private companies, often at very high risk, also play an important role in the eradication of poverty, as do independent journalists, who document and report these abuses.
I hope that you will find today’s event interesting.