India’s role as the G20 chair is a “real opportunity” for it to share lessons from the global South with the rest of the world, a top United Nations Women official has said, as she voiced appreciation for New Delhi placing issues of women-led development and gender equality as the centrepiece of its presidency of the grouping. India assumed the Presidency of the G20 for one year from December 1, 2022, to 30 November 2023.
“I see the G20 Presidency of India as a real opportunity for India to share lessons from the global South with the rest of the world,” Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Anita Bhatia told PTI in an exclusive interview on Monday.
She said, “for us as UN Women, what is really interesting...is how India is putting the issue of women-led development and a focus on gender equality as a centrepiece of its G20 Presidency. One of the things that (India’s G20) Presidency can do is to share development stories and pragmatic interventions that have already worked, with others. Because everybody is hungry for solutions that are efficient, particularly in a post-pandemic world," she said.
The G20 or Group of 20 is an intergovernmental forum of the world's major developed and developing economies.
It comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the U.K., the U.S., and the European Union (EU).
The theme of India's presidency is “One Earth, One Family, One Future” which shows its commitment to 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (the world is one family).
Ms. Bhatia was in India where she addressed the 'G20 EMPOWER' Inception Meeting in Agra on February 11. The meeting was addressed by Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant and Chair of G20 EMPOWER and Joint Managing Director Apollo Hospitals Dr. Sangita Reddy.
Ms. Bhatia termed as “unprecedented” that four countries of the global South — Indonesia, India followed by Brazil and South Africa — are leading the G20 through their year-long presidencies. India will hand over the baton to Brazil when its presidency ends on November 30, 2023.
“India has done some things which are remarkable and exceptional,” Ms. Bhatia said adding that “the great thing” about this is that these can be replicated across the rest of the world.
She underscored that in a post-pandemic world, nations have to leapfrog to achieve targets of sustainable growth and development. Highlighting her takeaways from the visit to India, she said she saw “leap-frogging solutions” being implemented in the country.
She cited India's investment in the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform, which she said is “democratising e-commerce, democratising access for and by women to digital technology.” Noting that there is a global digital gender divide, including in India, because of social norms and affordability issues, she said that when access is made more affordable and universal, which is what UPI is achieving, it is possible to further enhance the inclusion of women.
“A lot of the other social programmes such as Jan Dhan are creating financial inclusion on a scale that is unprecedented,” she said.
She stressed that the building blocks needed to achieve this inclusion — digital identification systems, and bank accounts — have been put in place and have helped millions of women in India during the pandemic.
“My takeaway, as a global institution, is that this is the right time for India to be disseminating lessons of experience, technical and practical knowledge that can help the rest of the world,” she said.
Ms. Bhatia added that UN Women is working with different Ministries in the Government of India and the G20 Secretariat to mainstream gender across different G20 groups.
UN Women has been supporting the nodal Ministry in India — Ministry of Women and Child Development - on two key engagement groups of the G20 Summit — G20 EMPOWER and Women20 (W20) and the Ministerial Conference on Women's Empowerment. UN Women is also playing the role of knowledge partner for the industry chamber FICCI (under the G20 Empower initiative) and Women20.
The UN agency focussing on gender equality and empowerment of women is also providing technical support in collaboration with UN Capital Development Fund to the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance to ensure that the finance track of G20 has a focus on women's digital and financial inclusion.
Ms. Bhatia added that through these partnerships and synergies with the goals of India’s G20 Presidency, “we are working towards the continued legacy of mainstreaming gender equality principles in the current and future presidencies."
She noted that at the G20 Empower Summit, she heard two very concrete initiatives — a push for digital literacy worldwide to help women and a women's mentorship platform through which successful and privileged female leaders will be able to share their lessons with others who are just starting out.
“This has an intergenerational aspect and inter-sectoral aspect,” she said. She noted that due to the pandemic, female labour force participation has dropped precipitously in many parts of the world. Against this backdrop, the “focus on digitalisation is very important,” she said.
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She also underscored the critical need to focus on skilling and re-skilling. “There is a mismatch between demand for labour and supply,” she said adding that while women are graduating from universities, and have degrees, they're not getting jobs. “Why is this? Is it that the jobs are not there or that they are not the right kind of jobs or they don't have the skills? This mismatch between demand and supply has to be addressed through a focus and an investment in skilling.
“That is very important for India to focus on and it's something that other parts of the world are also struggling with,” she said.
"One of the things that we are thinking about is how do we make sure that G20 (issues and solutions) are also manifest and present in multilateral processes so that this becomes something for the world and not just for the other 19 countries of the G20,” she said.