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Women Can Help Achieve Decent Growth
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Women Can Help Achieve Decent Growth

The 8% economic growth targeted in the upcoming five-year economic development plan (2016-2021) will be fulfilled with the ‘Women in Development’ approach, said Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice-president for women and family affairs, addressing the recent Second International Conference on Role of Women in Sustainable Development in Tehran.

Pointing to the 20-Year Vision Plan (2005-2025), she said the next decade will focus on knowledge-based economy, technology and entrepreneurship with special focus on women’s role in the society.

Women representatives from 25 Islamic countries attended the conference.

The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) is a powerful tool in implementing sustainable development programs and there are three factors affecting that index: women’s participation in managerial and technical careers, women’s economic activities indicating their financial power, and women entrepreneurship, she said.

GEM is designed to measure gender equality and is the United Nations Development Program’s attempt to measure the extent of gender inequality across the world, based on estimates of women’s relative economic income, participation in high-paying positions with economic power, and access to professional and parliamentary positions.

Highlighting their role in sustainable development, Molaverdi said women’s entrepreneurship “is one instrument of economic growth and development. It is the most important area that can enhance the sustainable development process.”

In Islamic countries, due to lack of appropriate social and cultural infrastructure, gender imbalance indices indicate “a significant difference with the developed countries.” In terms of women’s political empowerment, economic participation, available opportunities, and educational attainment, Islamic countries are placed in the lowest ranks.

Women in Islamic countries shoulder the overwhelming responsibility of household tasks and do not go for higher education or careers, Molaverdi noted, adding that a change would necessitate “the role of men to change and take greater responsibility for household chores and caring of children,” giving women time to pursue their managerial and technical roles.  

In addition, women’s lack of financial accessibility is directly linked to their aversion to risks. They prefer to confine themselves to small and local activities and be employed in private and public companies rather than taking bold steps in business ventures and exploiting available opportunities. “The imbalance between their abilities and available opportunities is what hinders sustainable development.”

Referring to the 10-Year plan of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that seeks to address women’s literacy and education as well “ideological deviation,” she said in the social field, the OIC will focus on the rights of women, children and the family. In addition, the plan promotes women entrepreneurship through enhancing opportunities and making resources such as land, funding and business information database available to them.

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