This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders—from around the world and all parts of society—discuss and develop solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.
After the G20 declaration of Brisbane, Australia, which was signed in 2014, subtle hope appeared for gender work. An unprecedented solution for measuring—and closing—the gender gap in our economies had been put forward. After we successfully lobbied for the establishment of the Women 20, 2015 was the time to take a step forward for gender work in the G20 countries. Since then, the W20 work has traveled eight countries, always leaving a legacy behind. The essence of the work was not only to establish a fairer world but also to achieve sustainable economic growth for the countries that close their respective gender gap by 25% by 2025.
The W20’s regular communiques propose to close the overall gender gap by recommending policies to governments for the social, financial, digital, economic and leadership inclusion of women. They cover all kinds of areas like education, knowledge bases and skill sets as well as employment, entrepreneurship, contracting (both private and public) and especially in pay gaps and rights to decent work.
The risk of poverty, particularly among the self-employed, informal workers, women and young people has increased tremendously in many economies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has erased this progress and deepened inequalities. According to the International Labour Organization, socio-economic recovery remains uncertain and enhanced social protection spending will continue to be crucial. Many companies had to close due to lack of business, and we saw that in a crisis women were among the first to lose their jobs—and they may be the last to get them back.
We need to find ways to reverse this trend—now.
The risk of poverty, particularly among the self-employed, informal workers, women and young people has increased tremendously in many economies. The importance of social security has become more visible and valuable for all. Working models have become more important in the future of the jobs, and legal frameworks should be adopted to promote those that preserve inclusive social security schemes.
In recent years, investments in rural villages have gained momentum. These were not hobby investments but well thought-out plans where sufficient capital was employed. And it is the women in villages play who a key role in food security, rural livelihoods and agriculture, agro-biodiversity conservation and natural resource management.
Rural women offer great potential for all our futures simply because they are the cornerstones of our food safety and environmental protection. These women are workers without pay— completely leaving aside the gender pay gap—but they are at the same time smart business partners and workers.
Read more: The Headwinds and Tailwinds of Women’s Advancement by Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders
In rural areas, our governments need to make investments in infrastructure like building roads and transport links, utilities, irrigation systems and connectivity for internet and mobile devices. A lack of any of these affects everyone, but we all know that any negative impact puts an additional burden on women and youth; it is estimated that 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls. Furthermore, the impact of climate change affects everyone negatively, meaning we may have more hungry people in the world. This also means that we will all be poorer.
In rural villages, women need not only access to special knowledge but also to know the goals...we need to expand their basic skill sets and knowledge bases, tell them where we strive to go as a society and explain what the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals are.
According to UN Women, if women had the same access to productive resources as men they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%. This would raise total agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4%, which will in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by around at least 12-17%.
I know a rural woman who was delegated the job to take care of the cows. She told me, “At first, I looked at my husband’s assignment with doubt, but he told me that I was producing more than him. Later, I was convinced that this was correct, and it is our joint income. Then I figured out that if I play music for the cows, I get even better produce”.
In rural villages, women need not only access to special knowledge but also to know the goals: how to plant, how to fertilise, how to raise crops and harvest. This will boost economic output and may create chemical free, organic production, save energy, enable access to clean water and preserve environmental sustainability. We need to expand their basic skill sets and knowledge bases, tell them where we strive to go as a society and explain what the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals are.
Green jobs are defined as decent jobs that reduce consumption of energy and raw materials, limit greenhouse gas emissions, support the fight for climate change, minimise waste and pollution and protect and restore our ecosystems. But green skills are those that improve the uptake and efficiency of green jobs. It is green skills that will help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation; which will provide Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Communities and Responsible Consumption and Production in rural areas; leading to Climate Action, protecting Life on Land and encouraging Value Producing Partnerships. What else can we hope for?
I propose that we spend our energy and funds to build understanding and consciousness of green skills and goals for village women, developing and promoting a G20-wide green skills programme our respective economies. We need to get our messages to all our urban, rural and governmental leaders regarding: why irrigation is important; why we need clean water; how optimum fertilisation and pesticide use help crops, and why we should try to go towards organic; how can we be more digitally connected; and why reaching out to customers and sales are crucial. Green investments in organic farming, agro-tourism, certification and branding processes, sustainable produce and farm-to-market food systems need to be specifically targeted.
It is our collective leadership that will shed a light on our future.
Experience dictates to us that we need to work on all dimensions for women. In 2015, when we said that women in leadership positions, both in the political and business spheres, will bring sustainable growth, people told me that I was a dreamer. Since then, the number of women serving as leading states or governments has increased; the share of women-led companies in the exchanges have also increased. The principle of “leave no one behind” means that we need to spend more effort towards this crowded end, where women in the villages are represented. We need to keep dreaming for a better world where village women are also key players in our respective economies.
Leadership is target setting. If we communicate all these principles under green skills training to the women in the villages, we may all be better off. And it is our collective leadership that will shed a light on our future.
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