Photo: UN Women/Amy Reggers

UN Women/Amy Reggers

Making economies work for women

Women play essential economic roles—more women in the labour market speeds growth. Yet many can find only poorly paid informal jobs, unprotected by labour laws and without social benefits. UN Women assisted 76 countries in 2014 in making economies work better for women, such as by connecting women to new skills and technology, and designing gender-responsive policies to level the playing field.

Skills training

Women grow much of the world's food, but receive little in the way of support, such as through agricultural extension services. UN Women addressed this issue in the poorest region of Albania by helping women organize cooperatives, and develop leadership and financial skills to manage them. They have learned to improve the quality of their products, such as through proper drying methods for herbs and fruits, and to market them with attractive labeling. Selling more of their crops means an earnings increase many never imagined possible.

Photo: UN Women/Amy Reggers

Climate resilience

Married at age 14, Mahera used to depend on her husband to bring home an income from collecting fish, crabs and wood in the Sunderbans, the world's largest tidal mangrove forest, which is highly susceptible to climate change. He could never earn enough, so Mahera started coming along, leaving her baby son in the care of her mother. Wading through mud and roots slashed deep cuts in her legs, and provided only marginal additional income.

Social protection and social services must not only aim to equalize access, but also need to be redesigned with women's rights at their heart.

Progress of the World's Women 2015-2016: Transforming economies, realizing rights
Infographic about the wage gap

Social protection

Collaboration among UN Women, UNICEF and the World Bank has helped improve social protection services for women in three Caribbean countries. When focused research delivered compelling evidence of how these services were not reaching vulnerable groups such as woman-headed households, Grenada, St. Kitts and St. Lucia reworked and passed policies and laws to close disparities. They are now developing gender-responsive poverty targeting tools to better guide service delivery. Women in all three countries will enjoy greater access to job and skills training. Households headed by women are expected to benefit from expanded school feeding programmes and transportation allowances for children, while cash assistance initiatives will offer lifelines to the poorest of these families.

Mobile power for girl power


Technology is increasingly essential for education and work, yet women and girls do not enjoy equal access. In 2015, UN Women joined UNESCO in sponsoring Mobile Learning Week, where hundreds of educators and experts from around the world debated topics such as how to expand web skills among women and girls, and ease entry into tech careers. Collaboration with Technovation, a global technology entrepreneurship programme for girls, sponsors competitions in 25 countries that shine a spotlight on young women with strong promise as technology entrepreneurs.

Photo: Lianne Milton

“Women need to understand their rights," Buarque explains. Formerly an academic, she entered the political arena "to bring the work I was passionate about to a larger scale.”

Cristina Buarque: Teaching rights and skills, touching 100,000 lives

When Cristina Buarque joined the state government of Pernambuco, Brazil in 2007, she was one woman among 24 state secretaries. But that didn't stop her, as head of the Secretariat for Women's Policies, from launching a massive social inclusion programme that has since benefitted over 100,000 poor women.

It provides professional training-often in better paid trades commonly reserved for men. Women have become plumbers, electricians and masons. They also go through an intensive course, with feminist trainers, on issues such as human rights and women's struggle for justice.

Buarque's achievement features in UN Women's 2015 flagship report Progress of the World's Women Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights, which calls for making economies work for women's rights and equality. Many of the benefits, such as fairer societies and more dynamic economies, would accrue to all, women and men. Ten key actions include equal access to productive resources and an equal voice in economic decision-making.