The Millennium Development Goals place great emphasis on the role of women in the development process. Goal number 3 specifically promotes the empowerment of women. It especially calls for the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education. However, setting gender-responsive targets and indicators only in maternal health and female education is not sufficient. Women must also be engaged in productive employment. This gives them economic options. And it also enables them to contribute to national growth and development.
The goal of women’s empowerment is now an established priority for a number of international and regional development organizations, such as the Asia Pacific Rural and Agricultural Association (APRACA), UNDP, UNIDO and FAO have been closely involved in this process.
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Bank Keshavarzi (BK) and APRACA, and in close collaboration with UNDP Iran through its joint project with BK on Green Banking, special women empowerment programs have been designed. The Centre of Excellence on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) which officially opened on Saturday 30 August is one of these programmes.
APRACA centre for excellence opens at Bank Keshavarzi (BK) in collaboration with UNDP Iran through the joint green banking project
The inauguration of this centre was closely tied up with a workshop on Women Empowerment for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development, which gathers a number of national and international entrepreneurship and economic empowerment experts from Asia-Pacific region and the UN Country Team in Iran. The Centre, fourth within APRACA, seeks to develop and formulate a comprehensive framework for women empowerment through financial interventions.
In his opening statements, the Managing Director and CEO of BK, Mr. Talebi highlighted ‘creating special services for women with the objective of empowering and exchanging best practices’ as the most important functions of this centre. He underlined that many of the women entrepreneurs, experts and implementers are efficiently and actively working in economic and agricultural arenas. Mr. Talebi hoped that Iran’s best practices in women’s empowerment can be shared with the region and the rest of the world.
Experts from ASIA-PACIFIC rural and agricultural association (APRACA) participated in the inauguration ceremony of the ACE-BK
The UNDP Resident Representative in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mr. Gary Lewis also addressed the opening of the Centre. In his key-note speech, Mr. Lewis referred to UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) of 2014 and said, ‘Women in Iran have done as well or even better than women in similar high HDI countries in: life expectancy at birth, years of schooling and completion of secondary education. Importantly, the majority of the new entrants to universities in Iran are young women.’ However, Mr. Lewis underlined, ‘Challenges to women’s economic empowerment and employment in the Iranian labour market remain. And they need to be recognized.’
The UNDP Resident Representative referred to the national statistics and said, ‘the formal participation of women in the labour market in Iran is less than 20% of the workforce. Women’s unemployment is well over 30% and, as some independent researchers believe, 40% of this category of women may have been out of work for more than two years’. Mr. Lewis stressed that these shape real constraints to women’s empowerment – and thereby to national development—and hoped that the Centre of Excellence would come up with a practical action plan on how it can improve the wellbeing of marginalized and vulnerable women in Iran.
Emphasizing UNDP’s mandate in supporting Iran in its development goals, Mr. Lewis added, ‘As a development partner, UNDP has always been concerned with the empowerment of vulnerable groups, such as the poorer and the younger members of society, and has consistently tried to support the Government in its efforts to meet the challenge of women’s economic empowerment through improved public-private-community partnerships.’
UNDP’s current Country Programme – which has been agreed with the Government – is anchored in the priorities of Iran’s 5thNational Development Plan. One of these priorities is to support women’s economic empowerment and thereby contribute to the larger goal of growth with justice.’
As an ongoing and successful example of social mobilization and micro-credit approach used by UNDP, he referred to more than 100 village development groups mainly in desert areas under the Carbon.
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