MASTERMIND AFRICA ALLIANCE AT CSW 2017

At the United Nations Headquarters in New York. UN’s largest gathering event on gender equality and women’s rights.

…Our objective at Mastermind Africa Alliance is to design and implement impactful initiatives and strategies that engage businesses in long term interventions and contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

With this year’s priority theme at the 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) being ‘Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work’, our organization was highly engaged and involved in the events throughout as women’s economic empowerment through corporate engagement is at the center of our work. CSW61 took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13- 24 March 2017 and is the UN’s largest gathering event on gender equality and women’s rights.

Among the notable events we attended was Unilever’s side event in collaboration with UN women titled “An “Unstereotyped” World: Catalyzing the private sector to change the way the world works for women by tackling harmful social norms and gender stereotypes.”.  Representatives from the private sector, civil society organizations, high-level government delegates and UN officials attended the side-event. Chairing the event was Unilever’s President of Personal Care, Mr Alan Jope who was joined by Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, Hon Justine Greening of the United Kingdom and Ms Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

Alan Jope called on the private sector to ensure that there is ‘unstereotyping’ in the workplace and across value chains to tackle harmful social norms that affect women’s advancement and economic development. He also demonstrated Unilever’s understanding of its immense role to play, as a leading employer and player in the global supply chain, in tackling these harmful norms and stereotypes. Strategies discussed as being implemented by Unilever were “unstereotyping” mindsets in workplaces, “unstereotyping” policies and practices across its value chain and “unstereotyping”  society at large using it’s brand through marketing and advertisements such as Unilever Axe- Find your magic campaign  and Unilever Dove- Real strength campaign.

Alan added that these approaches are not only through the company’s CSR initiative but rather, are grounded in the heart of Unilever’s business, an effective approach, in our opinion, that ensures that CSR and business are not viewed as separate entities but inseparable components that guide how core business is operated.  Unilever’s leadership and holistic approach towards gender equality has been evident and in 2015, the corporate’s CEO Paul Polman was recognized as an IMPACT 10X10X10 corporate champion for the UNWOMEN’s He for she campaign.

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A day prior to this side event, the Secretary General’s high-level panel on women’s economic empowerment launched its second and final report laying out concrete actions for accelerating progress towards women’s full and equal economic participation and called for transforming the most pressing impediments to women’s economic opportunities. This powerful tool identifies addressing of adverse social norms and all forms of discrimination as the first high priority among the seven principles for a transformative agenda for women’s economic empowerment. Alan Jope also announced Unilever’s launch of a new report on ‘Opportunities for Women’ which identifies barriers to women’s economic empowerment and summarized Unilever’s approach to Gender Equality.  Referring to WEF’s Gender Gap report, Alan emphasized that waiting for 170 years to close the gender gap is entirely unacceptable. Unilever recognizes gender equality is a pressing moral, social and economic issue, and understands challenging the stereotypes is a powerful tool to address gender equality.  He also explained the report’s findings on how stereotypes shape the perceive the value of girls versus boys and determines what is appropriate work for women, which burdens women with the disproportionate share of unpaid household work and family care. These stereotypes therefore formalize the idea of inequality and end up controlling women’s destiny, justify restrictions on women and in some cases sanction violence against women.

With concerted efforts towards breaking down the gender stereotypes held by society, economies in turn will begin to thrive as women will be more equitably involved and recognized in the workplace and in business, thus inspiring the current and next generation to explore, contribute to and engage in limitless economic opportunities, drawing us closer to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality.  Private sector has a critical role to play in this objective as a creator of (equitable) jobs and powerful influencer on shaping attitudes and behavior in today’s society.

Our objective at Mastermind Africa Alliance is to design and implement impactful initiatives and strategies that engage businesses in long term interventions that contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, such as SDG 5 on Gender Equality and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities.  To achieve this, we engage corporates in round table discussions and workshops with diverse groups of community members such as young professionals, award winning entrepreneurs serving the base of the pyramid consumer, students, artists and community workers to deliberate on current global and local challenges and create innovative solutions and approaches to the same. From this interaction, participating corporates are able to gain diverse insights and feedback, form partnerships towards building inclusive business models and implement innovative solutions created in these sessions.

Selamawit holds an MA in Integral Economic Development from Catholic University of America and heads Impact Evaluation at the organization where she leads the team which designs, implements and measures the impact of client projects and business in the community. She has vast experience in M&E and Impact Assessment Reporting on the African continent having gained experience in Ethiopia, Ghana, South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. She is passionate about education and currently serves as the Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School and is also a fellow of Moremi Initiative for Young Women Leadership in Africa

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Great insights on this article.

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