Youth Space

The crisis of economic and global development models and their impact on women and girls, with a focus on the COVID 19 context

By Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe

The Generation Equality Forum Mexico has been one of the most important (online) events I have had to attend especially in the context of women’s’ Month and gender Equality. It reminded me adequately of so many inroads made in the pursuit towards gender equality but most importantly, of the many more roads for improvement we still need to drive on.

One session that particularly moved me the most was “The Economy. The crisis of economic and global development models and their impact on women and girls, with a focus on the COVID 19 context.”

The session was moderated by the UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Anita Bhatia, and attended by esteemed guests such as the former president of Malawi Her Excellency Joyce Banda, it was nothing short of transformational insight and practical wisdom.

In her own words, Her Excellency Joyce Banda, emphatically expressed the need for borderless markets for women’s labour. She quoted ‘You cannot have fair competition among unequals.’ In other words, women are most severely excluded from participating meaningfully in the macro-and-micro economy, and therefore this statement called for a radical interrogation and fiscal reform that would recognize the value of women as equal contributors on which a prosperous economy can thrive.

The Global Director for Gender on the World Bank Group, Caren Grown, remarks that ‘care’ is not part of the economic infrastructure of the non-high income countries. “Care should be seen as important as economic structures such as schools and hospitals.” This veritably confirms that if countries reform or re-integrate infrastructure to include care as an essential institution, it would alleviate so many hurdles for women to thrive economically and domestically in their households and anywhere else.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, an economic policy expert at the Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI) contends that political leadership is connected to economic policy reform, and that political leadership build economic institutions, “...with politics it’s about trade-offs and women are often not at the table for these trade-offs, and this is why women’s issues are constantly excluded.” This stark analogy on the socio-political dynamic of gender representation proves once again why women’s involvement in politics is not only essential but integral to the livelihoods of so many other women in a given community.

I have learned that perhaps it’s not necessarily money that ‘makes the world go around’, but that it’s women, who represent a sizable portion of the global economy, whose continued efforts, characterized by unpaid care labour for example, that ‘make the world go around’. The forum was very well assembled and easily accessible, with so many options and resources to learn from, and this forum has undoubtedly broadened my advocacy axioms and ideas on Gender Equality.