From November 29 to December 1, Wilton Park held its fourth meeting on promoting women’s economic empowerment. An executive agency of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Wilton Park has been established since 1946 and convenes around 65 high level international policy events a year.

Wilton Park hosted the conference at Wiston House, its home for the past 66 years. It is a beautiful, modernised 16th century manor house surrounded by over 6,000 acres of parkland with magnificent views.

Assuredly, it was the perfect location for a thought-provoking and inspiring three day conference for more than 50 participants from 25 countries. Building on the reports delivered by the United Nation’s Secretary General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment, this meeting aimed to focus on concrete actions for empowering women as economic actors.

The discussions of the conference focused on three pillars:

  1. Financial, digital inclusion and entrepreneurship – targeting opportunities for enterprises owned and led by women.
  2. Adverse norms that affect women’s economic participation – challenging discriminatory beliefs and practices.
  3. The care economy and domestic work – increasing the recognition of care and access to services, social protection and infrastructure.

Speakers and participants included Margo Thomas, CEO Women’s Economic Imperative and Former Chief of Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment; Sue Lawton, Global Expert, Women’s Economic Empowerment; Gwen Hines, International Relations Director at the Department For International Development; and Ruth Shaw, Head of Soft Power and Strategic Engagement at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

My Chevening Journey as the Engage and Change Champion

Early November, Wilton Park announced the launch of the #EngageandChange Challenge open to Chevening and Commonwealth Scholars for its upcoming conference on Women’s economic empowerment.

I had the honour of being selected as the Wilton Park’s #EngageandChange Champion for this conference along with Chevening Scholars Anu from Nigeria and Alejandra from Mexico as the #EngageandChange runners up.

You can follow our vlogs and short summaries of the sessions here.

Part of this invaluable takeaway from this conference was having various perspectives from the participants from around the globe from Sierra Leone all the way to Jamaica. It was such a culturally diverse group of participants that I could not help but reflect on the following questions: ‘How is this working in my society, in my country? How can I contribute? How can I challenge the status-quo?  How am I going to take it forward in Côte d’Ivoire and in West Africa?’

Coming to this conference, all the participants had distinctive expectations but it all came down to aspiring to one thing: CHANGE.

How do we #EngageandChange? (My key takeaways)

1) ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’

The importance of women role models and how critical it is in discussing women’s economic empowerment.

Women need to put themselves forward with confidence, promote their successes for a more positive representation of women in the media.

2) ‘It’s not only a women’s issue’

The role of men and boys in influencing women’s economic empowerment.

The engagement of men in the conversations is essential as these issues are not only focused on women. Boys and men can also become role models and champions for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. It was encouraging to have 12 men actively participating in the debates during the conversations.

3) ‘Alone we are invisible, together we are invincible’

The complexity of the issues should not hinder our continuous initiatives.

We all agreed that women’s economic empowerment will be achieved through a continuum of efforts, together, across countries and continents. Additionally, social media should be used as a powerful tool in amplifying our voices and actions across our networks.

We were all challenged to reflect on the following question and I would like to end this post with it: ‘If you had to select two immediate actions to work towards achieving women’s economic empowerment, what would they be?’