Women key to economic growth, development, need increased support, says UNIDO Director-General
VIENNA, 8 March 2011 – The Director-General of the United Nations Industrial development Organization (UNIDO), Kandeh K. Yumkella, said today that women in developing countries could further contribute to economic growth but need access to knowledge, credit, markets, and energy.
Speaking on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, Yumkella urged to focus on the MDG goal on promoting gender equality and empowerment of women due to its cross-cutting nature.
“Countries that eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education will indirectly accelerate progress toward reducing poverty, hunger, maternal mortality, and improving child health. If women are able to access credit to invest in business ventures, markets to sell their products, knowledge to expand their businesses, diversify and undertake value addition, they will be in a position to better contribute to economic growth and development,” he said.
For this year’s 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the United Nations has chosen to focus on the theme “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women”.
“UNIDO provides women in developing and transition countries with knowledge, skills and technologies to enable them to engage in productive activities. Our overall mandate focuses on promoting industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability. This cannot be achieved without taking into account the full economic potential of women – half of the world’s population,” said Yumkella.
“Employment is the most important link between economic growth and poverty reduction. Providing income earning opportunities for poor women is crucial to overcoming poverty. Industry has the potential to offer the necessary jobs and opportunities.”
An ongoing UNIDO project in the southern part of Mali is helping women produce shea butter, a product popular in cosmetics due to its organic and healthy nature, by introducing technologies to increase productivity, training on quality control systems, product certification and marketing, and establishing links to international markets. Over 1000 women have already benefited from this project. A joint venture company has been set-up between the women’s groups and a French cosmetics company, with an order to produce 40 tons of soap-based products this year alone.
UNIDO’s Entrepreneurship Curriculum Programme offers entrepreneurship courses to young boys and girls in secondary and vocational schools in the developing countries, including in Angola, Cameroon, Mozambique, Namibia, Timor-Leste, and Uganda.
A joint programme between UNIDO and HP called the Graduate Entrepreneurship Training through IT or GET-IT, is addressing the high youth unemployment rates in Africa. GET-IT courses teach young women and men the basics of entrepreneurship with practical experience in the use of computer technology, and in areas such as finance, management, and marketing.
Yumkella, who chairs both UN-Energy and the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC), called for consolidated efforts to raise awareness on the crucial role energy access has for sustainable development. “Energy is central to sustainable development and is linked to a number of major global challenges, including poverty, security and climate change. Energy is a basic requirement, yet almost three billion people in the world today rely on traditional solid fuels for cooking and heating. Over one and a half billion have no access to electricity,” he said.
“Without energy, small and medium enterprises cannot function at maximum capacity. Without energy, industry cannot survive. Without energy, women and girls will continue to spend long hours looking for fuel sources, and will not have jobs.”
The year 2012 has been designated by the UN as the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All.
Yumkella said that off-grid energy sources will allow women to further pursue education, as well as economic opportunities. In Kenya, UNIDO has helped develop a zero-emission renewable energy Community Power Centre, which uses micro hydropower to generate electricity, and promote the use of light emitting diode (LED) lamps as a replacement for kerosene lamps. The energy goes to a village power centre that also acts as a community development centre. Estimates suggest that ten such centers would offset approximately 5,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, and reduce the costs associated with importing 1.5 million liters of diesel every year.
The centre also acts as a source of energy for small-scale women entrepreneurs engaged in micro industries such as soap processing, fruit juice making and a maize meal. The project is now being replicated in a number of other districts in Kenya.
UNIDO was also one of the founding partners of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which aims to improve livelihoods, empower women in developing countries, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The initiative was launched last year by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires, which is the primary means of cooking and heating for nearly three billion people in the developing world, causes 1.9 million premature deaths an¬nually, with women and young children the most affected.
A statement by the Director-General on the occasion of the International Women’s Day is available here
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UNIDO Advocacy and Communications Coordinator