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Leverage potential of women, girls as powerful agents of change – IMF Boss

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, has said that women and girls were themselves powerful agents of change.

She said it was, therefore, necessary for the world to leverage the strength and power of women in the face of war and destruction.

Speaking at the 89th meeting of the UN Security Council, which focused on the role of women in peace and security in line with the International Women’s Day celebration, she said women helped societies transition from fragility to stability.

“What we do today matters to hundreds of millions of women living in conflict and fragility. Tragically, in far too many places, this strength is being relentlessly tested. My heart goes to all the women bracing the horror of war. Protecting their children, caring for the wounded, sacrificing for their countries, their communities, their families,” she said.

While acknowledging the fate of women currently in Ukraine, Ms Kristalina said “we admire your courage. We share your pain. We stand with you. We support you.”

She noted that although women bore disproportionately the devastation of wars, they were known to be best hope for peace.

Economic impact

She said that crisis, be they conflicts, or pandemics, or more traditional economic and financial crisis, threatened to set back years of progress in gender equality, and, therefore, slowed down progress in development.

According to her, in the pandemic, globally, twice as many women as men lost their jobs.

“Already, women are 20 per cent below men in labour market participation to begin with. We also have seen tremendous earning losses. We calculate that over lifetime of the generations affected by the pandemic, $17 trillion will be lost because of this lack of educational attainment.”

“More dramatic is the fate of girls. We know that 20 million girls in developing countries may never return to school. And that means they’re excluded from life’s opportunities forever, for the duration of their lives. We also have seen during the pandemic, the ugly head of gender based violence being up. And of course we know that this leads to serious socioeconomic consequences,” she said.

However, she said that as dramatic as these effects were, there was the need to remember that overcoming them could be a massive injection of prosperity for countries.

“Empowering women, reducing inequality in fragile or conflict situations in particular, can have powerful economic benefits. If sub-Saharan African countries reduced gender-based violence, closer to world average, they could see long term Gross Domestic Product (GDP) gains of around 30 per cent wellbeing for everyone,” she said.

Need for equality

The IMF boss emphasised that gender equality was critical for growth, resilience and socio-economic stability and that it mattered tremendously when women and girls could reach their full potential.

“They do better, their families do better, and their countries do better, for the benefit of everyone. Improving gender equality can raise economic growth, quite significantly. Strengthen the resilience of families, communities, and countries. Enhance financial stability, and reduce income inequality,” she said.

She added, “we know societies with more gender equality tend to be more resistant to violence and conflict. And the equal participation of women in socioeconomic life is essential to prevent conflict and help transition out of fragility. When women participate in peace negotiations in state building processes, the chances for building resilience for enduring peace, for inclusive and prosperous societies, significantly improves. And the Security Council has such an important role to promote women inclusion in peace building.”

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