15 July 2015

Money, Women, and Development: My Stroll with Assistant-Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women

Listen to this interview on the Stroll Podcast here

Often times when we think about women and money, the next thing that comes to mind is shopping or manicure, but my guest today will make you think again. Speaking to me from the International Conference on Financing for Development (#FFD3) which started on Monday 13th July, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Assistant-Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri explains why women need developmental financing and how it can help the International community achieve her 2030 deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

ASG Puri, who has decades of work experience at the United Nations, also shared some life lessons she has learned in course of her work as a diplomat and how we can all apply these lessons to our everyday life. Here are salient points from our conversation. To listen or download the full interview, visit The Stroll Podcast here

UN Women at #FFD3

ASG Puri: First of all, we want the conference to recognize and address the chronic under-investment in women and girls, and also push the gender equality and women’s empowerment and women’s rights agenda. If you look at the MDGs, it has been found that the gender equality gap, the gender goals, is still big. This report was released about last week. It was discovered that the biggest gap in the MDGs is in relation to MDG 3 and MDG 5.

It has also been estimated that, for funding the women related MDGs there was an $83 billion gap. These are some stats and facts about under-investment.

(UNSG Ban Ki-Moon Opening the 3rd Financing for Development Conference in Addis, Ethiopia)

ASG Puri: Secondly, in order to close this gap, we have been advocating for transformative financing for gender equality commitment; for financing gender equality and women’s empowerment related commitments. We are happy to say that since the creation of UN Women, there has been global progress like the conference on sustainable development in Rio, Rio+20 in 2012, and then onwards up till now. This September, the Post-2015 development agenda which sets out the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and you have an important agenda in that package with a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

This has to go down to women and girls of all ages; in different kinds of settings; women with disabilities; young women; young girls…so all of it is captured in that goal.

All these commitments that the International Community has taken at the global, regional, national and even local level have to be financed.

What is Transformative Financing for Gender Equality?

ASG Puri: First, it is about significantly increasing unprecedented levels of resources, financial resources, and investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment in terms of scheme, scope, and quality. We also want dedicated resources for women and girls because, there are specific needs, inequality and discrimination and those have to be overcome.

We want prioritization of these dedicated resources targeted towards all of those aspects that help in the realization of women’s rights.

Transformative financing also has to be done at all levels; it’s not enough to give at the global level it has to be taken to the local government level.

What are we trying to finance? We are trying to finance the laws, policies, measures that must be implemented. We are also trying to finance institutions, organizations, civil societies, cooperatives, self-help groups, women organizations, and generally programs that target women empowerment and gender equality. This is what we are seeking, and I think we are getting there.

UN at 70 and the women’s rights campaign so far

ASG Puri: In the history of gender equality, the UN will stand out as being a significant voice for women. Throughout its life time, the UN has been making very significant contribution. Let me begin by saying in the first year of its existence, about 69 years ago, it established the commission on the status of women. So you can imagine 69years ago that became a priority. That commission, the commission on the status of women (CSW), continues to be the premier institution today; premier inter-governmental Institution for policies and legislation on gender equality, and norms and standards, and standards-setting on gender equality and women empowerment

Every year it meets in March and it has a bigger attendance than even the general assembly in terms of number of delegates and the attendance of civil societies and women’s groups. It has been breaking records of late; between six thousand to seven thousand people come for the CSW.

The other normative outcome has been driven through four international conferences for women. The last one was the International Conference for women which held in Beijing and it gave rise what is considered the gold standard in international commitment, and objective setting and strategy for gender equality and women’s empowerment in 12 critical areas of concern ranging from; poverty, economy, health, education, ending violence against women, conflict and post-conflict countries, women in the media, institutional mechanism, women and the environment, and the girl child. It’s a very comprehensive commitment, and that celebrated 20 years this year.

We are celebrating in July the passing of the resolution, in 2010, that created UN Women as an integrated institution. It has also being particular task of UN Women to mobilize the UN System as a whole and individual UN agencies to deliver bigger, better, and news ways to support gender equality and women’s empowerment and to hold them accountable. So, we lead, coordinate and promote the accountability of the UN System on gender equality.

Life Lessons from working at the United Nations

ASG Puri: In life as in the UN, what I have learned is that one must have a vision accompanied by concrete goals and strategy which must be based on principles. Whatever we do at the UN is value based—values are important. But all these make real impact and make a difference only if there is action on the ground.

I always have this two-in-one plan which is, having a vision and strategy and goals but I also make sure there is action the ground and that it actually makes a difference in the life of someone. Again, in life as in the UN, you need to have passion, commitment, sense of excitement about what you do, and also a sense of urgency about the call. It must be now! It cannot wait. It also not a choice between the important and the urgent; it is both important and urgent and that is true of the gender equality project.

At the same time you have to be persistent, patient, and to see through what you want to achieve even though it takes long and demands all kinds of sacrifices. These are some lessons that I have learned and it is very applicable in the present project that I’m privilege to be part of at UN Women. 


For more about UN Women, visit their website and read ASG Lakshmi Puri's full biography here.

Food for the Soul: “I pray that God will take care of all your needs with wonderful blessings that come from Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 4:19, CEV)

(Images Credit: UN Photos, UN Women)

Remember, you can download or listen to this interview on the Stroll Podcast

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