Women’s Empowerment Principles during COVID-19: Challenges and best practices
The pandemic has put at risk the implementation of solutions to address gender equality issues in the business sector through the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). At the same time, however, it has also underscored the commitment of business organizations to this global initiative. For instance, some companies, which also made their cornerstone the empowerment of women in their corporate culture, started to implement such responsive actions at the very start of COVID-19 that aimed directly at supporting women. Among these companies were business organizations operating in Georgia, Turkey and Ukraine, and they held an online event and shared with one another their initiatives and best examples aimed at empowering women.
The meeting was opened by Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “What we see is a growing number of [WEPs] signatory companies across the Europe and Central Asia region adapting their policies, programmes and initiatives to create inclusive environments where women and girls can thrive and succeed,” she remarked.
It was particularly stressed at the event that during the pandemic, the companies directed their actions towards the empowerment of women, addressing such issues as the well-being and health of their employees, family and caregiving responsibilities, flexible working hours compatible with family needs and caregiving responsibilities, equal access to financial and non-financial services, support for businesses run by women, and the prevention of gender-based violence.
Meeting participant Can Dinçer, General Manager of Arçelik Turkey, remarked: “If we, as companies, want to be a leader in the sector, we should design purposeful businesses and invest more in social impact initiatives; otherwise, we will lose the game. We have to accelerate our actions and allocate more of our resources to projects on women’s empowerment both for business and society.”
The online event was a good opportunity for the companies to evaluate their own initiatives and involvement, as well as to manifest the motivation that will help the private sector take active steps towards women’s empowerment.
“I strongly believe that women’s empowerment starts with solidarity and mutual support,” noted Marekh Gvaramadze, the founder of Kant’s Academy. “For me, the WEPs initiative is an act of solidarity between men and women, which encouraged me and our team to take a big step forward for women’s empowerment in our society.”
At the event, the UN Women Georgia Country Office also made a presentation on the results of a survey on the activities of the WEPs signatory companies. The survey was conducted by the local office of PricewaterhouseCoopers earlier this year and covered 40 business organizations supporting the WEPs. According to the results, from 2018 to 2020, the initiatives of the WEPs signatory companies changed the lives of up to 7,000 women in Georgia for the better, with only 21 of the companies having spent more than GEL 1 million on women’s empowerment over the same period of time. The survey was conducted as part of the UN Women project “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia”, implemented with the support of the Government of Norway.