How G20 Riyadh will put Arab women on a global stage
This year Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20, a first for the MENA region, and we are putting women’s empowerment at the center of our presidency. With this commitment in mind, our team is working to ensure that women’s empowerment is considered holistically throughout the G20’s discussions.
We know that empowering women and providing access to opportunities is a key driver for sustainable development. It is estimated that gender gaps cost the global economy about 15 percent of GDP a year. In the MENA region, as well as globally, women face barriers to achieving their full potential. Women make up only 21 percent of the MENA labor force. If the gender gap in labor participation had been narrowed by half in the past ten years, the region’s GDP growth rate could have doubled. The untapped potential is striking.
By empowering women, we empower societies. Throughout my life as a teacher, and as a dean at King Saud University in Riyadh, I have witnessed women’s potential. I have seen what women can achieve for themselves, for their families and for society as a whole, when they have access to opportunities. Together, we must work to break the barriers and create the conditions in which every woman can live, work and thrive.
Women’s empowerment is a global challenge that concerns us all. As the premier forum for economic international cooperation, the G20 has taken prominent steps to advance women’s empowerment. In 2014 in Brisbane, G20 leaders committed to reduce the gender gap in labor market participation by 25 percent by 2025, and in 2020 we will examine our progress at the half-way point to this target. In 2018, the G20 focused on a gender mainstreaming strategy across its agenda. And in 2019, the G20 launched the EMPOWER alliance, seeking to promote women’s access to leadership positions in the private sector. Saudi Arabia is proud to progress this effort in 2020.
We know that empowering women and providing access to opportunities is a key driver for sustainable development. By empowering women, we empower societies.
This year, under the theme “Realizing the opportunities of the 21st century for all,” the Saudi G20 presidency will focus on three overarching aims: Empowering people, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers. G20 countries will devote particular attention to key enablers that allow women to thrive, such as labor participation, financial inclusion and access to opportunities; For example, 980 million women around the world don’t have access to basic banking services.
Women’s empowerment is our collective responsibility. As the Saudi “sherpa,” Fahad Almubarak, states: “The G20 has a responsibility to the world to overcome current and emerging issues, to tackle global challenges together, and to make the world a better place for all.” This year, the G20 will make a united effort to continue to promote women’s empowerment and ensure that society, as a whole, can share the benefits of growth and innovation, now and in the future.
In Saudi Arabia, there is still much to do, but we are making progress. Under Vision 2030, rapid reforms have been implemented to increase women’s participation in all aspects of Saudi society. This year, the World Bank’s 2020 Women Business and the Law report highlights Saudi Arabia as the country with the biggest improvements.
Riyadh will not only host the G20 leaders’ summit in November 2020, it has also been declared the Capital of Arab Women 2020. As we embark on a new era, the voices of Arab women will take a prominent place on the global stage. This is truly a historic moment and an exciting opportunity. In Saudi Arabia, in the MENA region, and in the world, empowering women is as important as ever to build a brighter future for all.
- Dr. Hala Maziad Altuwaijri is Secretary-General of the Family Affairs Council of Saudi Arabia and head of the Women's Empowerment Team at G20 Riyadh.