When G7 Foreign and Development Ministers meet in London this week they will discuss investing $15 billion in female economic empowerment in developing countries over the next two years. This development fund will help women access jobs and build resilient businesses to combat the devastating economic impact of COVID-19.
They will also sign up to new global targets for the education of girls in lower and middle income countries. Aiming to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 by 2026.
The $15 billion in funding is for the 2X Challenge which was launched in 2018 and is a partnership between various G7 Development Finance Institutions [DFIs]. This partnership leverages funding from DFIs and Multilateral Development Banks to provide finance to female owned and staffed businesses and products or services that particularly benefit women.
The education of girls is one of the best investments for a developing country. Through this families can be lifted out of poverty which in turn grows economies, saves lives and in particular will rebuild the damage done by the global Covid-19 pandemic. If a child’s mother can read it’s statistically likely that the child is 50% more likely to live beyond the age of 5 years. The children are also twice as likely to attend school themselves and very relevantly their children are 50% more likely to be immunised.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on women and girls. From schools being closed to reduced access to lifesaving sexual and reproductive health services. For women there has been a greater risk of job loss and a spike in gender based violence has been recorded.
During the G7 meeting the world’s leading democracies, driven by the UK, will ensure gender equality is at the heart of global cooperation to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2X Challenge was launched in 2018 and is named after the multiplier effect of investing in women. This directive has committed more than $6bn of capital for investments that support women and girls in developing countries.
The programme focuses on helping women-owned businesses thrive and increases access to better paid jobs with more flexible working. Projects supported under the scheme include PEG Africa which is a solar power company providing home systems to customers in West Africa, which the UK’s CDC has invested $12.5 million in. In Ghana as a result of the 2X Challenge the number of women in leadership positions has doubled from 22% to 44%.
Women in developing countries have always had much fewer economic opportunities than men. They also shoulder the majority of unpaid care work which in turn reduces how much time they have for paid work. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded women’s situation and new research has shown global growth could be reduced by $1 trillion due to women losing paid work.
The G7 will also highlight the need to act to defend and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. As well as the need to scale up gender-based violence prevention and ultimately its elimination as well as ensuring women are included at local, national, and international decision-making.