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Annual Discussion on Integration of a Gender Perspective
September 15, 2017

As Prepared for Delivery:  The following statement by the U.S. Delegation could not be delivered due to Human Rights Council time constraints.

Human Rights Council 36th Session
Geneva, September 15, 2017

Addressing gender inequality and empowering women and girls are essential to achieving sustainable development, peace, and prosperity.  Promoting women’s participation in a country’s political, economic, social, and cultural life breaks perpetual cycles of poverty and leads to greater growth.  In July, the United States announced its intent to provide $50 million to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or We-Fi.  We-Fi is an innovative new multi-donor facility for which the World Bank will serve as Trustee, aimed at expanding access to financial services for women entrepreneurs as well as technical assistance, covering such areas as skills enhancements and market access.  The initiative will support projects that address the legal and policy barriers women face in starting and growing successful businesses in a variety of sectors.

Equality of law is critical to the empowerment of women.  We note that the 2016 World Bank Report on Women, Business and the Law found that in 155 of the 173 economics covered by the report, there was at least one law that impeded women’s economic opportunities.   It found that in 100 economies, women face gender-based job restrictions.  And in 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.   It highlighted that lower legal gender equality is associated with fewer girls attending secondary school relative to boys, fewer women working or running businesses, and a wider gender wage gap.  Without equality of law, these economies cannot achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5.

The Universal Periodic Review process provides a useful opportunity for member states to report regularly and comprehensively on SDG 5.   The UPR can and should be a process for countries to examine these practices and identify what they are doing to improve the human rights situations in their countries, including addressing gender-based inequality, and how they can further improve these situations.  Countries should be encouraged to accept recommendations aimed at eliminating gender inequality and should be offered support in implementing them.  Likewise, recommendations that states accept in this area should be prioritized for attention by UN country teams, donor support, and technical assistance by those providing such assistance.