ILO panel discussion explores gender equality and women’s empowerment in crisis settings

Side event during the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women

News | 22 March 2022
On 22 March 2022, an ILO side event entitled "Women’s Empowerment in the World of Work in Fragile Settings" at the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, allowed a global conversation on mainstreaming gender equality and non-discrimination in the world of work in settings facing crisis and fragility to pave the way to more equal, peaceful and resilient societies. The event also served as an opportunity to launch the latest ILO guide “Gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work in fragile, conflict and disaster settings” which offers practical guidance on how this can be done in the world of work.

Ms. Mito Tsukamoto, Chief of Development and Investment Branch (DEVINVEST), joined this event as a panellist to discuss the challenges regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment in crisis settings, and to explain how the new ILO guide can be used to integrate gender-responsiveness in the world of work in fragile settings.
Ms Tsukamoto began by stating that “we stand in solidarity with all the women who are facing or have faced fragility in countries – where men, but also women are fighting or have fought like warriors to protect their families, their livelihoods and their representation just to be able to ensure that their voices are heard.” She continued saying that the session should be dedicated to the women in fragile or crisis settings. Women whose workload has increased as they care for their communities, compensating for declining family incomes and social services; those women who have lost their jobs or access to job opportunities and face economic insecurity, broken education systems and damaged infrastructure and workplaces; those same women who have lost control and access to resources; and those women who have been protecting their children as they shoulder the burden of displacement, instability, violence and aggression.

She went on to say that in the current context of fragility, conflict, climate change and increased disaster risk, women’s knowledge and skills play a key role in enhancing community resilience. Women are in many ways peacemakers and advocates for social cohesion, protecting their families, raising children, and nurturing the elderly.

Ms Tsukamoto reminded the panel that it has been over 20 years since the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution (1325) on women, peace and security and yet we know that 1.8 billion people continue to live in fragile contexts. While aid in support of gender equality has increased over the past 10 years, the total aid integrating a gender equality perspective in economic and productive sectors is only at 47% and of that, only 2% has gender equality as a primary objective (OECDDAC) and the targeting of women in these sectors continues to be lower than men.

She pointed out that the ILO’s Coordination Support Unit for Peace and Resilience, in the Development and Investment branch, coordinates the work on Peace and Resilience. This work is in line with and supports the implementation of ILO normative and policy frameworks, including the Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation 205, adopted in 2017 which emphasizes the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in promoting peace, preventing crises, enabling recovery and building resilience. Within this context, the ILO developed the guide “Gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work in fragile, conflict and disaster settings” with colleagues in the ILO’s Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Branch.

Ms Tsukamoto speaking at the event "Women’s Empowerment in the World of Work in Fragile Settings"
She explained that the guide does three things:
  • In terms of general recommendations, it highlights, for instance, the importance of recognizing that women, men, boys and girls are differently affected by crises, and that there is a need to take into account the situations of gender and sexual minorities, to use an intersectional and rights-based approach and to leverage social dialogue and the important contributions of employers’ and workers’ organizations.
  • In terms of analysis and intervention design, it provides guidance for ensuring gender-responsiveness in all analyses and assessments, including peace and conflict analyses and post-disaster needs assessments.
  • The guide also provides policy-area specific recommendations for different areas from Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, Employment Intensive Investments, Enterprise and Skills development, Occupational Safety and Health Social Protection to Social Dialogue.
She then highlighted three of the many recommendations that are made in the guide:
  1. Work in an inclusive, non-judging and non-discriminatory way, taking different needs, roles, situations and capacities into account.
  2. Give due consideration to the interconnectedness of conflict, environmental degradation, climate change, poverty and gender inequality.
  3. Consider the needs for both immediate job creation and income security, and for action to build long-term resilience, to sustain peace and bring about transformative change in terms of gender equality, while leveraging the institutions of work and social dialogue.
In conclusion, Ms Tsukamoto stressed the need to recognise that gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work is more closely interlinked with sustainable development and peace and resilience than one may think. Humanity’s progress to achieving peace and disaster and climate resilience counts on women being active in the world of work, globally being given a voice, and ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment along with given leadership opportunities.

She ended her comments with a quote from the foreword of the guide, “Development, peace and resilience gains can only be realized by putting gender equality and equity at the centre of all of our efforts” (2022. ILO.)