Many are now growing medicinal and aromatic plants that require little water, can survive increasingly harsh conditions and yield a higher profit than more traditional crops.

In Morocco, UN Women helps women cope with climate change-induced livelihood threats. We support economic interest groups like the Annama Association, whose members grow medicinal and aromatic plants in Errachidia. Photo: UN Women Morocco.

Empowering women to boost economies

economic empowerment icon

Women make contributions to economies, from the local to the global, that mount into the trillions of dollars. Despite this fact, women in all regions continue to be overrepresented in low-paid and vulnerable jobs. At the current pace, it will take 70 years to close the gender pay gap. In addition, shouldering the bulk of unpaid care work limits women’s opportunities.

Through economic empowerment, women can overcome these barriers. UN Women emphasizes reaching and supporting the poorest and most marginalized women—many of whom increasingly face emerging challenges such as climate change and migration. We support laws and policies that strengthen women’s economic opportunities and advocate for equitable access to services that enhance their livelihoods such as water, energy, transport and green technology. To set the right framework for progress, UN Women calls for all economic policies and poverty eradication strategies to embrace gender equality as a central aim.

Adapting to climate shifts

Morocco’s already arid deserts have come under increasing pressure from climate change. For women in oases in the south-eastern province of Errachidia, the encroaching desert puts prospects for making a living under serious threat. UN Women helps women find ways to adapt to this livelihood risk. Many are now growing medicinal and aromatic plants that require little water, can survive increasingly harsh conditions and yield a higher profit than more traditional crops. Such adaptation also helps keep the oases healthy and resistant to the desert.

A drawing made by a participant in a training course on women's and migrants' rights, held in Chiapas, Mexico, as part of a UN Women programme on migration. Photo: Rodrigo Barraza
A drawing made by a participant in a training course on women's and migrants' rights, held in Chiapas, Mexico, as part of a UN Women programme on migration. Photo: Rodrigo Barraza

Supporting the right to safe migration

While Mexico sends many migrants north, it also receives many across its southern border, the latter typically fleeing the hardship and strife of parts of Central America. Over half are women, and while they are seeking safety, they often find more danger instead in the form of sex traffickers and in marginal, hazardous jobs. UN Women is leading a major effort to raise awareness of the plight of these women. We advocate for safe migration that fully reflects women’s human rights.

We truly appreciate the effort of UN Women: the programmes [in Egypt] are very well-functioning, very relevant, very successful and nationally owned. (…)

Statement from Egypt, UN Women Executive Board Annual Session, 30 June 2015
Arab Parliamentarians and Members of the European Parliament at a conference on the EU-UN Women Spring Forward for Women programme. Brussels 2015. Photo: UN Women/Emad Karim

Arab Parliamentarians and Members of the European Parliament at a conference on the EU-UN Women Spring Forward for Women programme. Brussels 2015. Photo: UN Women/Emad Karim

Unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit

In the Arab States, UN Women, the European Union and the League of Arab States launched a regional network of public, private and social sector institutions under the name of “Khadija”. Members of the network work to influence national policymakers in their respective countries and institutions to provide better work environments for women, protect them from vulnerable employment and increase women’s representation in leadership positions. The network was created as part of Spring Forward for Women, a joint regional programme between UN Women and the European Union.

Group photo at the launch of Women 20 (W20) in Ankara, Turkey, September 2015. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Aykut Ünlüpınar
Group photo at the launch of Women 20 (W20) in Ankara, Turkey, September 2015. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Aykut Ünlüpınar

Fostering agreement among major economies

G20 countries, representing the world’s major economies, stepped up their commitment to women’s economic empowerment in 2015 by creating Women 20 (W20). Under Turkey’s leadership and supported by UN Women, the group comprises senior representatives from each country. Together, they are poised to influence decisions making economic growth more inclusive and empowering millions of women around the world. On the agenda: closing gender gaps in the workforce and easing the burden of unpaid care work.

Khateeja Mallah (Durdana).

Photo: UN Women/Faria Salman

SDG 1: No povertySDG 2: Zero hunger Khateeja Mallah (Durdana), 31, is a widow from Pakistan’s Dadu District in Sindh Province. She is one of 1,214 landless women farmers who have received land tenancy rights through a programme being implemented by UN Women, FAO and ILO. Through tenancy agreements, feudal and tribal male landlords lease their terrain to women farmers for an agreed period of time, giving them access to the land, a place to live, and the chance to run the farms and receive a portion of the profits from the crops grown. This initiative is directly related to SDG 1, on ending poverty, which includes targets on land ownership and control, as well as SDG 2, on sustainable agriculture, which includes secure and equal access to land.

Khateeja Mallah: “This land, as far as the eye can see, is mine—this paper says so.”

“I first began working in the fields with my father when I was 10 years old and after that with my husband, to whom I was married off when I was 13. I became a widow nearly three years ago and have to support eight children—seven daughters and one son. I was landless with no entitlement to the crops or land where I work.

Farming is all that I know and my only source of income. It is really hard work especially the harsh weather [summers] we face. Being a woman, there are a lot of things which I did not like, such as bargaining for my work rights or enduring harsh words from landowners. At times I get frustrated with my life but when I look at my children, I decide to cover my helplessness and be strong—I have to face everything, good and bad, to better their future.

Having legal access to land, a place to live, and receiving a share of the crops that I plant and harvest was simply unimaginable. [Until] I learned of my rights as a landless farmer and the benefits of tenancy agreements and landholding through the [UN Women] trainings I attended. The sessions taught me that I had valuable farming knowledge and experience, and most of all, that I had rights.

Now, for the first time in my life I can say something is mine. This land, as far as the eye can see, is mine—this paper says so. This is my land and I am its queen! I am excitedly waiting for my tough farming days to pay off—for the day when my children are older and earning a good living. That will be the day when I sit down and take a relaxed breath, and start to enjoy life.”

Economic empowerment and the flagship programmes