Hester Le Roux: Translating the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment into Action

By Hester Le Roux, Challenge Director, Business Fights Poverty

Business Fights Poverty welcomed the creation early last year of the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.  Not surprisingly, women’s empowerment is an issue of great importance to many members of the Business Fights Poverty community.  

In support of the Panel’s work we crafted a Challenge on Women’s Economic Empowerment, in partnership with CARE and supported by the UK’s Department for International Development and Diageo. The Challenge considered the question How can business support women across their value chains and beyond?

Like every other Business Fights Poverty Challenge, this Challenge was all about engagement: about forming new relationships and facilitating mutual learning among peers in a trusted environment.  It is this innovative approach to collaboration in pursuit of practical solutions to strategic problems which sets Business Fights Poverty’s Challenges apart.

Over the course of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Challenge we hosted a series of engagement events, including a business survey, online discussions, a blog series showcasing best practice, and two roundtables for companies and their partners in the development community. In confirmation of the importance of this topic for many, 223 members of our community joined the Challenge and over 195 contributions were made to our discussions.

Key findings of the various consultation events were summarised in a briefing paper for our supporting partner, DFID, which captured key messages to the Panel from business along with some recommendations for action.  We also gathered together a set of best practice case studies which were submitted into the Panel’s consultation process. These case studies provided real-life examples of how companies and their partners empowered women through their core business and value chains.  Many of the case studies are still available in the form of blogs on the Challenge website.

Feedback about the process from Challenge Supporters and other stakeholders has been roundly positive, with all parties keen to keep the momentum going.  Over recent weeks we have been exploring the scope for a follow-up Challenge to take forward our collaborative work on women’s empowerment. Once again we intend to link our activities closely to the UNWomen-driven empowerment agenda.

The High Level Panel very effectively highlighted ongoing barriers standing in women’s way and clearly identified drivers of change in its two reports. With the launch of its toolkits, the focus now shifts to practical implementation of the Panel’s recommendations.

It is time to turn words into action. That is why Business Fights Poverty is joining CARE, DFID and the High Level Panel in hosting an event in London on 6th September to launch the Panel’s toolkits and to facilitate a practical discussion on how companies can go further to implement women’s economic empowerment in their business.

Many companies are already considering how they can incorporate the Panel’s outputs into core business practices. Business Fights Poverty’s next Challenge, which will once again be supported by Diageo and co-hosted by CARE, provides one way for companies to act on the recommendations of the Panel’s business working group and to take forward the women’s empowerment agenda, working jointly with peers and development partners in a dynamic and flexible collaborative platform.

A number of companies have confirmed their interest in participating in the next Challenge and discussions are ongoing around the specific scope.  We are gradually iterating towards a focus on how to translate the large amount of meta-level data on barriers and enablers of women’s empowerment in value chains, into very practical guidelines for action at a country- or sector-specific level.

Challenge Supporter Diageo is already taking action in pursuit of this agenda. Through their partnership with CARE, they are collaborating on research, community programmes and advocacy to empower women in their company, communities and consumer base.

Challenge co-hosts CARE are also working with their other business partners to address barriers to women’s empowerment across corporate value chains: For example, CARE are working with Mondelez International through the Cocoa Life Partnership to increase women’s leadership in cocoa farming communities, and in doing so supporting the development of a sustainable cocoa value chain.  

We would like to invite you to join our next Challenge and work with us to take practical action in response to the Panel’s recommendations and toolkits, and to ensure that the momentum built up over the past 18 months is not now lost.

If you would like more information about Business Fights Poverty or about this Challenge, please contact Hester le Roux at hester@businessfightspoverty.org.

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