World of Work Summit: A better future for women at work

President Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius advocates better future for women at work

President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the first woman President of Mauritius, urged African Member States to eliminate gender inequality and empower women to boost the continent’s development potential through innovative policies that facilitate women’s integration in the workforce.

Press release | 15 June 2017

GENEVA (ILO News) – The President of Mauritius, Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, called for stronger affirmative action to improve gender parity which would result in significant economic dividends for Africa.

“Eliminating gender inequality and empowering women could raise the productive potential of one billion Africans, delivering a huge boost to the continent’s development potential”, said Gurib-Fakim in her first address to the International Labour Conference.

Mauritius is now a middle-income country ambitioning to  become a high-income economy, with women representing 39 per cent of the work force.

“In Africa, significant progress has been made in closing gender gaps. Despite these gains, African women continue to face adverse situations. Girls are still much less likely than boys to benefit from a secondary education. They have little influence over resources and norms, restricting their access to jobs and thus limiting their earning potential in agriculture, enterprise, or the labour market”, she said and called for more investments to close the gender gaps.

“(…), All boils down to one stark reality, which is that progress of women in the world of work is slow and is still fraught with challenges in terms of quantity, quality, and access to jobs”, President Gurib-Fakim stressed.

However, one should not forget that “women of Africa make a sizeable contribution to the continent’s economy. They are more economically active as farmers and entrepreneurs than women in any other region of the world. It is the women who grow most of Africa’s food, and who own one-third of all businesses”, she said, adding that “in 11 African countries, women hold close to one-third of the seats in parliaments, more than in Europe”.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder welcomed President Gurim-Fakim to the ILC and stated: “Madam President, thank you for bringing your experience and your vision for the future of jobs in Mauritius and the continent to this Summit and, through the Summit to our Women at Work Centenary Initiative”.

Importantly, given today’s theme, “you pledged to use the influence of office to promote gender equality – to be a role model, to send a clear message: “Yes it’s possible if you are a woman”, Ryder emphasized.

Investing in SDGs 5 and 8

Gurib-Fakim said that investing in gender equality could help solve the challenges faced by the African region and boost the economic potential of the continent.

“The Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are inextricably linked in SDG 5 relating to Gender Equality and SDG 8 relating to Decent Work and Economic Growth”, she underscored, adding that “increasing the gender parity and addressing the attainment of the SDGs in a holistic and comprehensive manner has the potential of positively shaping synchronous outcomes such as improving instant and child mortality rates, increase labour force participation rates and earnings or fostering further educational investment in children”.

The President of Mauritius underlined that the “ILO, as other UN agencies, should discuss and take the necessary action to help realize the relevant goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda”.

“It is our hope that the ILO Future of Work Centenary Initiative will create the necessary impetus for a better future for women in the changing world of work”, she concluded.

President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was attending the ILO World of Work Summit in Geneva, alongside President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca of Malta and President Bidya Devi Bhandari of Nepal, as keynote speakers to share practical measures adopted to advance gender equality in the world of work.