In the last year, the world has taken major steps toward gender equality and awareness for gender issues.
Saudi Arabia has allowed women to drive. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became just the second head of government in history to give birth while in office. Women are running for public office in an unprecedented number in the United States. Important discussions on sexual education and reproductive rights have taken place in Ireland and here in Argentina. Gender issues have inspired a strong surge of activism across the globe, and the G20 has its own platform to discuss the perspective of gender through the Women20.
The Women20 (W20) is an official G20 engagement group formed as a transnational network of women’s organizations, female entrepreneur associations, and think tanks. Initially established in the Turkish presidency of the G20 in 2015, the W20 has continued its work the last three years in promoting gender issues. This year, the W20 in Argentina has been analyzing four main focus topics: labor, digital, financial inclusion, and rural development.
The Bubble reached out to W20 Chair Susana Balbo for more on the group’s work and objectives.
With the W20 summit is on the horizon, can you speak to the way you build a policy consensus with countries as contrasting for example Canada and Saudi Arabia for gender issues? How do the differences come into play?
SB: That is, with no doubt, the main challenge of the W20 dialogue process. We are representing women for all the 20 nationalities (and more), and what our leaders decide, affects the lives of millions of women all around the globe, and all these women live in a very different reality, more than we can imagine, and that, obviously, affects the priorities.
Our engagement group represents the voice of the civil society, and our work, the work of the team of the W20 Argentina, is to coordinate the dialogue and to ensure all points of view has equal representation. But we also have to set the expectations about what the leaders are willing to take from our document. Sometimes, what is basic and obvious for some countries, is still an open fight in other, and we have to handle with not leveling down the demands but to first and foremost ensure basic rights.
Our delegates work very hard on presenting and setting their priorities while taking into consideration that other women may be living totally different realities, in some way all is reduced on empathy with the others, common challenges, and strategic wording.
Argentina’s G20 presidency has stated that all of its priorities will be taken with a gender perspective in mind- what are the biggest challenges and opportunities with those priorities in regard to gender?
SB: We are very hopeful about it. We worked on four focus topics that we considered that are the main priorities in regard to gender: financial, digital, labor inclusion and the development of rural women. The last one is on the W20 agenda for the first time and it has been well received by all the delegations. This is the first time that the leaders will receive recommendations with a focus on ensuring the wellness and the development opportunities of women in rural areas.
These four topics are oriented or related to the main objectives of the G20 this year, and to ensure the impact we have been working with some specific task forces of the G20 and other engagement groups. But gender equality is one priority itself to the Argentine presidency of the G20 and we are looking forward to being included in the leaders communiqué.
This W20 in Argentina is taking place in the midst of a movement throughout the world for women’s rights advancements – how can the W20 contribute to the global dialogue?
SB: It’s very important for us to integrate the W20 on the global dialogue, especially because it’s very hard to access to concrete information and evidence about the reality of the women in all the G20. We feed our work with content provided by international organizations or academia, and we debate in terms of the real life of the women with our delegates.
The international community has already been working on this issue for a very long time, and these last few years the debate took a very important dimension. We always look to work very closely with all the actors on the scene, international organizations, civil society groups, agencies, institutes, government, and the private sector.
We must feed the dialogue with different points of view and what’s more important, we all need to committed to building the change. Working with a real network, integrated voices and points of view, produces specific demands in terms of public policies to help women. Being part of a leaders forum with a relative access to the most influential agendas, that’s the space that the W20 occupy on the international arena.
From your personal story and background, what would you most like to give as advice for young women leaders out there?
SB: I always say that it is very important to never give up. It’s important to know that you can fail, and you can make some mistakes, but as long as you recognize it and work to improve you can make your goal. But what is also very important is to work in a network, to count on your colleagues and let your colleagues count on you.
You may have your own goal or dream, but it won’t make it less yours if you ask for help, for advice, and work taking into account what others have to teach you. Help others and let others help you because we live in an integrated world and we have a lot to learn from the others.
What do you most hope to achieve with the W20 communiqué you will present at the end of the summit?
SB: The truth is that we have been working so hard this year with all the delegates in this communiqué that we think every recommendation is important to achieve.
We are bringing to the G20 leaders communiqué with very strong demands and a document with main cases that support the concrete gender policies that we propose. The four focus topics that we are putting into discussion are important, but we are aware that the final G20 resolutions present a lot of topics concerning plenty of issues, so we expect to be included in it as much as possible.
The W20 Summit will take place October 1-3rd in Buenos Aires, at the Kirchner Cultural Center (CCK). President Mauricio Macri will open the final day of the summit, and speakers include Argentine-born Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. The summit will culminate in the official communiqué to be presented for the G20 Leaders’ summit.