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How Social Protection Can Empower Women

There is an urgent need for social-protection policies and initiatives that enable women not just to survive, but to thrive. Women do not need only employment opportunities; they also need social support that accounts for the true extent of their responsibilities.

PORT ELIZABETH/LONDON/BRIGHTON – To live in dignity, free from want, is a fundamental human right. Social protection is key to upholding that right, ensuring that people can escape poverty and insecurity. That is why social protection is at the center of strategies for ending global poverty by 2030, the first of 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But, if those strategies are to work, they must go further – especially with regard to women.

In recent years, many countries – particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean – have made great strides toward improving social protection. But most policies and initiatives are inadequate, and nearly four billion people still lack any social protection at all. Because women are the leading providers of unpaid labor, they are the most likely to suffer from this failure.

The issue of social protection was at the top of the agenda at the UN’s 63rd Commission for the Status of Women, held last month. NGOs, activists, policymakers, and academics called for increased support for women in the labor market, including initiatives to encourage employment and the provision of social support, such as childcare services. Pointing to successful countries like Iceland and Norway, participants agreed that only on a level playing field, with no gender pay gap, can the full potential of girls and women be realized.