W20 Argentina – No going back

What a week it’s been! As the work of the past year culminates with the handover of the W(Women) 20 communique to the President of Argentina it’s time for a little reflection (to be followed by yet more focused action)!


I’ve been fortunate to participate in the work of the W20 – an official engagement group of the G20 – since the early days of its formation through my links to Chatham House who have been instrumental in the set up and continued growth of the W20. The W20 has come a long way in the past 3 years and each country that has hosted the G20 in those years has built on the work of the others. For those who are not aware, the focus of the G20 is on the economic and financial development of their member states (some of the largest and most mature economies globally). To this end, the W20 focuses on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment to overcome contemporary challenges within the global economy. The pillars of the W20s work include financial, digital and labour inclusion – with this year also a special focus on rural women.


The awareness of the issues of gender inequality are increasing (aided largely by social media) but progress is painstakingly slow. There is a strong argument that having more women involved in the formal economy is better for societies and yet here we find ourselves in 2018 still struggling to make it a reality. The W20 has produced in the form of this year’s communique a clear ask of the G20 to catalyse change. The communique has been circulated through the member states Sherpas to their leadership. The next step now is for the G20 member states to commit to these actions and for the G20 to individually and collectively make this a priority.


Last year we saw some progress as a result of the work of the W20 with the announcement at the G20 Leaders summit in July 2017 of the setting up of the We-Fi  – US$1bn fund administered by the World Bank intended in part for women in conflict and  post conflict countries to set up businesses (with a further US$3bn made available this year by the G7  member states to developing countries). What we need now is for the G20 member states to commit to the asks of the W20 as outlined in the communique and crucially make more data readily available so progress can be measured.


As we look to Japan holding the G20 chair in 2019, we know that our Japanese W20 colleagues are very focused on the issue of governance and accountability and especially the availability of gender dis-aggregated data. We look forward to collaborating with them to accelerate progress. I for my part will continue my work on women’s economic empowerment collaborating across the eco-system to support women entrepreneurs to access the support and resources they need to grow their businesses. I know my fellow W20 delegates – many committed activists – will be doing the same and I look forward to collaborating with them and their support.


Finally, as the Argentinian President said – even though it feels for many of us that progress is glacial and in some significant areas we are losing rights painstakingly gained – there can be no going back!