Parliamentarians mobilized to tackle women’s poverty and advance strong care policies

17 Apr 2024

During the first quarter of 2024, the global parliamentary community renewed commitment and built its capacity to advance gender equality through women’s economic empowerment. The 2024 IPU-UN Women Annual Parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women took place on 12 March 2024. Bringing together 113 parliamentarians from 38 countries, the meeting served as a platform to debate on the indispensable role of parliamentarians in addressing poverty from a gender perspective. 

Discussions focused on structural challenges that hinder women’s economic empowerment and the gendered characteristics of the poverty cycle. Participants highlighted the need for fresh, gender sensitive approaches in reversing discriminatory laws and practices that lead to socioeconomic exclusion, and to transform parliaments into gender-sensitive institutions that proactively address and rectify gender disparities. 

During discussions, parliamentarians emphasized the concept of time poverty, highlighting the ways in which women with caregiving responsibilities are disproportionately affected by income poverty as a result of the limited time investment to their career aspirations. Unpaid care work was brought up by many participants as a primary contributor to the pay gap and to patriarchal perceptions of women’s role in society. Speakers highlighted the need to challenge economic models that often exploit and marginalise women. Discussions also underscored the need to assess the impact of discriminatory laws and practices on women's economic rights and to undertake the necessary reforms in this area, in line with the IPU-UN Women handbook on Gender-responsive law-making

 Prior to that, a 2-day online regional conference for parliamentarians from Arab States was held on 31 January and 1 February 2024 to discuss the role of parliamentarians in accelerating the achievement of women’s economic empowerment under Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) in the Arab region, with a focus on care policies.  

The meeting was organized by the IPU in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) and in collaboration with UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Bringing together 35 parliamentarians from 18 Arab countries, the meeting focused on care policies and the economy, including on equal care among men and women. It showcased practices from countries that have made significant advances in care policies and explored means and strategies to promote cross-fertilization throughout the region.  

Participants highlighted the importance of addressing structural discrimination against women in the workforce, such as traditionally attributed gender roles. They agreed on the need to promote social protection and better income for female-dominated sectors of the economy, in particular in the informal sector. Critical issues for women’s empowerment, such as the promotion of women’s education and training and the meaningful involvement of men as advocates in transforming discriminatory concepts into inclusive care policies, were among the topics discussed. The meeting called for reversing patriarchal concepts in care provision, and for care work to be considered as a public good.