Ms. Almas Jiwani, CEO, Almas Jiwani Foundation, President Emeritus UN Women Canada
Ms. Jiwani shared that when she hears the phrase that “women are the answers”, she gets elated because it is a theme that resonates throughout many of her personal and the foundation’s activities. But, let’s pause for a second to ask ourselves, if women are the answer, what are the questions? Women are the answer, but only if there are enabling conditions for women to be the answer. These conditions are systemic, meaning each community, each country has to create the environment for women to succeed and thrive.
She stressed the impact women can have on economies of the developing world, through empowerment and entrepreneurship. Ms. Jiwani related an experience where she was offered a number of different views of the meaning of ‘women’s empowerment’. She emphasized that gender equality is the state of a society when women and men walk together, side by side. Women are not seeking the power; but want to use power to help other women to unleash the power within. Despite much progress, gender equality has yet to become a global reality.
Women’s political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy. It facilitates women’s direct engagement in public decision-making and is a means of ensuring better accountability to women. Studies show higher numbers of women in parliament generally contribute to stronger attention to women’s issues. This includes increasing the number of women in decision-making positions, making gender-sensitive governance reforms, and ensuring that they are properly implemented. Significant progress has been made. Today, there are more women in government than ever before. Women are increasingly channeling their efforts to expand the number of women candidates in elections, and transform politics and political accountability.