Thu, Mar 07, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Emerging markets must conquer female discrimination

Gender discrimination is undermining emerging markets’ social and economic progress, on which the rest of the world increasingly relies, and has to be addressed to avert disaster

By Shaukat Aziz

Moreover, private employers should be encouraged to build supportive workplaces by implementing creative solutions to common constraints. For example, MAS Holdings in Sri Lanka has incorporated into the workplace nursing stations, on-site banking, and company buses that ease employees’ commutes and facilitate participation in sports programs.

Such measures not only lead to increased productivity; they also bolster loyalty and morale, and thus employee retention.

At the same time, it is crucial that women enjoy total reproductive autonomy and sexual sovereignty. This can only be achieved with the provision of universal and unfettered access to reproductive and other relevant healthcare services.

However, even healthy reproduction has a dark side. Neonaticide (killing infants less than one day old), infanticide (killing infants more than one day old) and the practice of disposing of female children in favor of male offspring are not only barbaric; they have led to imbalanced gender ratios in many emerging markets.

Policymakers must enforce criminal sanctions against these practices.

Subsequently, educational programs for children and adults should be launched, in collaboration with religious groups, to improve public understanding of gender inequality. By promoting a shift in public perceptions, such programs can catalyze fundamental behavioral changes.

International action is also crucial. The World Bank and regional development banks should be encouraged to incorporate gender-equality criteria into their eligibility criteria for loans and credit to emerging-market governments and private-sector corporations.

Such a clear economic link would help to motivate local policymakers to take strong action, while helping to bolster public support for policies promoting gender equality.

The international community has a profound stake in the future performance of emerging markets. In order to bolster these countries’ social and economic advancement, the development agenda in the coming years should include a robust commitment to promoting gender equality.

Shaukat Aziz was prime minister of Pakistan from 2004 to 2007.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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