Australia is one of the top five donors to UN Women, according to the organisation’s 2013-14 Annual Report. The release of the Report coincided with a speech by Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on new policies on foreign aid funding.
In her speech at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Minister Bishop outlined the six key focuses of aid funding, including the empowerment of women, a goal which she describes as “a personal passion”.
While expressing concern about overall cuts to the Aid program, Julie McKay, Executive Director of the Australian National Committee for UN Women welcomes the priority being placed on women. “We are very pleased that the Australian government has made women’s empowerment and gender equality a priority of its foreign aid program. As Minister Bishop noted, women’s equality delivers social and economic benefits to all, and UN Women’s delivery of effective aid programs demonstrates this time and again.”
Goldman Sachs estimates that providing women with equal earning and employment opportunities would raise per capita income by 20 percent by 2030 in 15 major developing countries. Ms McKay says increasing the social and economic participation of women is key to the work of UN Women. “Ensuring that women have the legal protections, skills and training and opportunity to earn an income is critical to development, and Australia’s focus in this area is to be commended.”
UN Women’s 2013-14 Annual Report ranks Australia behind Sweden, Finland, Norway and the United Kingdom as one of the main donors to UN Women, with just over $20.2 million (AUD) in core and non-core contributions. In 2013, Australia gave the second highest contribution to the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality, and Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, calculated at $1.9 million (AUD).
This year, DFAT announced funding to the innovative multi-country Markets for Change program. This initiative was launched in Papua New Guinea and Fiji in 2009, has recently been rolled out across the Solomon Islands and a launch in Vanuatu is scheduled for later this month.
The Program improves facilities in Pacific markets, a large employer of women, making them safer and cleaner workplaces. The program also educates and trains market stall owners so that they can improve business practices, access banking services and increase income for their families.
Ms McKay says that early results from the Markets for Change program show that investment in women’s empowerment is guaranteed to show returns. “Dollar for dollar, programs that focus on women’s rights and needs are effective, efficient and deliver outcomes. We need to scale up our efforts across the Asia-Pacific region to empower the millions of women and ensure that their boundless energy and creativity can be focused on ending the poverty, violence and political marginalisation that prevents them from participating fully in the growth and development of their communities.”
“Twenty years after the world pledged to put women’s rights and empowerment on the global agenda at the Beijing Conference, it’s time to increase the resources directed to gender equality, and give women an equal place at the table.”