The 61st Session on the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) took place for two weeks earlier this Month.  The priority theme “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work” covered a breadth of themes such as from equal pay, freedom from violence at work, and the care economy. 

At Save the Children, we concentrated on how sound investments in girls can help secure their pathway into becoming economically empowered women through our CSW Parallel Event “Investing in Every Last Girl” on March 15th.

Our Global Girl Champion from South Africa, Tshidi, moderated the session and spoke about her work as a found of “Bet She Can,” an organization which empowers young women to be independent by pursuing an education. In the below video, Tshidi shares her key learnings, memorable moments and what she is taking back to South Africa from New York.

Our first speaker, Emma, who is a delegate with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), reflected on her experience thus far with WAGGGS and how the organization fills in the gap missed by governments around investing in girls.  For example, WAGGGS teaches girls vocational skills in Gambia, to address the gender gap past primary education, where many families only provide financial support to cover their sons’ educations, and girls are often consigned to unpaid care work.  When governments leave girls behind, NGOs have the unique capacity to invest in girls, through direct programming and other partnerships.

Nora O’Connell, Associate Vice President of Public Policy & Advocacy at Save the Children US, shared recommendations on how we can finance SDG 5.  Such actions include: guaranteeing gender-responsive budgeting, ensuring better data for better investments, and strengthening overseas development assistances for gender programming.  It’s crucial to apply a gender lens when financing development and humanitarian work, and hold institutions accountable to their commitments to gender equality.

Simonetta Zarilli, the Chief of the Trade, Gender and Development Section at UNCTAD, shared startling realities of economic disadvantages faced by women, such as increased unemployment, fewer leadership positions, and higher rates of illiteracy.  If women played an identical role in labor markets to men’s, as much as $28 trillion, or 26%, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.  Governments can increase investments in girls and women through a variety of ways, from taxing mineral extractions for social investments like Bostwana and Zambia do, or relocating military expenditures for universal health, as Costa Rica and Thailand do. The business s case for investing in women and girls exists, as do the solutions to finance the investments. UNCTAD and civil society play an important role in delivering these messages to policymakers. 

Lyric Thompson, Director of Policy & Advocacy at ICRW, assured that we can end child marriage within a generation, if we have proper investment, smart strategies, and effective programs that can delay marriage and foster choice in opportunities.  In addition to securing the right to a childhood for girls, ending child marriage can have large economic returns.  In Niger, ending child marriage by 2030 save the country $25 million. 

Respondents Cecilia Zvosec from Women Deliver and Anna Kalashyan from World Bank Group delivered strong responses to the presentations.  Cecilia maintained that we must ensure girls and women are at the centre of the development, programming, and analysis of interventions that enhance investment in their rights and livelihoods.  Anna’s remarks covered how investing in childcare in good for women, children, and economies. Financing the care economy can yield high returns on GDP, close the gender employment gap, and ensure women are receiving higher, formal wages for their investment in children.  

Overall, the event showcased the clear economic impacts of investing in girls through education, skills development, and health, and how crucial a multi-sectoral approach is to investment.  Both the business case and human-rights case to investing in girls is evident; CSOs, UN agencies, and individuals must amplify these messages to key stakeholders so we can guarantee each girl has the opportunity to survive and thrive.