Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World in 2011: A Day of Discussion in New York [with the participation of Mrs. Mu Sochua]

December 4, 2010 marked the third day of the Economist’s World in 2011 Festival in New York. The day included a series of speakers and panels on various issues that may shape the future of 2011.

Panel on Women’s Economic Opportunity

Alyse Nelson (President and CEO of Vital Vibes) very eloquently introduced the first panel of speakers, including Leo Abruzzese (Editorial Director North America; Director Americas, Country, and Economic Research of The Economist Intelligence Unit), Zainab Salbi (Founder and CEO of Women for women International), Mu Sochua (Member of the Cambodia Parliament) and Kah Walla (Director of Strategies S.A. and Presidential candidate of Cameroon), who discussed the issue of Women’s Economic Opportunity. Nelson explained how women and girls are underutilized and how the world needs to utilize all of their resources and potential, both men and women.

Leo Abruzzese started the panel presenting a study conducted on the economic opportunity of women, highlighting countries’ ranking on how they compared on this topic. Out of 113 countries, Sweden, Belgium and Norway ranked at the top of the list, Chad, Yemen and Sudan at the bottom, and the United States ranked #15. The United States was ranked #15 due to the fact that the United States does not sign international treaties to protect women’s rights and does not have mandatory maternity leave. The report concluded the driving factors of economic opportunity to be based on four items: 1-Labor Laws and Practice, 2-Access to Finance, 3-Education and Training, 4-Legal and Social Status. Three important issues that need to be addressed are the issues of: 1-Maternity Leave, in which the US is one of 2 countries that do not have paid mandatory maternity leave and benefits, and will be the only country next month; 2 – Equal pay for equal word, there is good legislation, however this is not being enforce; 3 – Violence Against Women, women exposed to violence earn 50% less than those who are not.

Mu Sochua spoke on the importance of not just making predictions, but how to make it work and the necessity to break issues down to the micro level, using the “she economy,” i.e. She is in…, her, economy. Women need to justice and people need to make a commitment. Zainab Salbi made a few predictions for the future, revolving around the notion women are the solution; women make up 80% of the work force, 60% of the food in the world, but only own 2% of the land. She believes that the two main actions that need to be made to achieve this are to: 1-private sector engagement, and 2-to start portraying women as good borrowers, this will not be an easy or cheap process. Kah Wallah discussed three important issues that need to be addressed in 2011: 1-countries need to make a commitment as most of the growth is in developing countries, not the developed countries; 2-corporate level partners, companies have the opportunity to make a conscious effort as there needs to be more women in high level positions, and 3-this notion needs to be taken to global discourse and needs be discussed with the G-20. The opportunities are there, countries just need to commit.


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