By Aminu Magashi Garba
At an event convened by United Nations Women on Saturday 26th September 2015 leading global companies and foundations have committed millions in additional financing for gender equality at a Business and Philanthropy Leaders’ Forum.
Achieving gender equality is fundamental to realizing the transformative promise of the historic 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the UN Summit on Friday. But deep financing gaps for women and girls pose significant barriers to rapid progress. Commitments at the Forum were aimed at closing these. They backed a major global drive, championed by UN Women, to “Step It Up” for gender equality.
UN Women co-hosted the Forum with the Alibaba Group and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Jack Yun Ma, Executive Chair of the Alibaba Group; Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Gates Foundation; and UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka opened the event.
“There can be no gender equality without investment and willingness to change the status quo. To make 2030 the expiry date for all forms of gender discrimination, everywhere, all businesses will need to step up essential investments in gender equality”, said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “I commend the leaders here today whose far-sighted commitments give that lead.”
Contributions to boost funding for gender equality and women’s empowerment include USD 5 million from Alibaba and USD 1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Alibaba’s commitment would support UN Women’s work to advance women’s empowerment globally. Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma said: “Achieving gender equality by 2030 is an ambitious, but realistic goal in the modern age and the private sector has a critical role to play. We at Alibaba believe in the power of technology to allow women to thrive in today’s and tomorrow’s economy. With partners such as UN Women, we will continue to create economic opportunity for millions of female entrepreneurs around the world.”
The contribution by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support advocacy on the central role of women’s empowerment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “The world is moving in the right direction because women are pushing it that way. Women drive progress for all of us by demanding better healthcare and opportunities for their children and greater equity for everyone,” said Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Gates Foundation. “That’s why, when we invest in women and girls, we’re investing in the people who invest in everyone else.”
Pledging Unilever’s support, which will be geared towards expanding women’s economic opportunities, better sharing and reducing unpaid care work, and improving safety for women and girls, CEO Paul Polman said: “Unilever has signed the UN Women and UN Global Compact Women’s Empowerment Principles, and set ourselves an ambitious commitment to empower 5 million women across the world by 2020. Gender equality also presents an enormous opportunity for economic and business growth. Addressing the barriers is not just the right thing to do; it must be a business priority.”
Business and philanthropy leaders that attended the event in support of UN Women also included representatives from companies such as Coca-Cola, Cisco, Infosys, Itaipu, Mastercard, H&M, Citibank and State Bank of India, along with philanthropic organizations including the Ford Foundation, General Electric Foundation and Nigeria-based Dangote Foundation and Sun Media.