Empowerment, Equality, and Inclusion: Women in Decision-Making Systems

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A view of the ’Factory Hall’ at the World Trade Institute, Universit
A view of the ’Factory Hall’ at the World Trade Institute, University of Bern © World Trade Institute, University of Bern

On Friday, February 23, 2024, the World Trade Institute (WTI) of the University of Bern will host an international conference on women’s economic empowerment. The conference will bring together 16 international experts to discuss a UN recommendation and develop a subsequent workshop recommendation. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is expected to adopt this recommendation in October 2024. The University of Bern is the first Swiss university to participate actively in this process.

While global statistics indicate that women already hold over 30% of global wealth, persistent barriers and inequalities persist in all’economic sectors, in both developing and developed nations, like Switzerland. Women’s equal representation in decision-making processes is pivotal to achieve economic empowerment of women. In February 2023, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) decided as part of its mandate to develop a new General Recommendation (GR 40) to support States Parties in achieving inclusive representation of women in decision-making processes - both in the public and private sectors. The overarching goal is a "parity and paradigm shift" under the motto "Parity: From a Cause to a Norm. From Leaving No One Behind to Bringing Everyone Along".

"Making gender parity a permanent feature of our societies"

Elisa Fornalé, professor at the WTI, has been directly involved in this drafting process since last year, including participating in an expert meeting in Washington DC in September 2023. "II believe that the CEDAW Committee and its forthcoming GR40 offers an unparalleled opportunity to make gender parity a permanent feature of our societies," says Elisa Fornalé. "The WTI’s efforts share the urgent need to empower minds across the gender spectrum by making available an academic environment that fosters equality at every turn," she adds.

The WTI conference is now taking a step forward and inviting members of the UN CEDAW Committee to Switzerland for the first time. They are experts from academia, international organizations, civil society, and governments. All of them specialize in different ways in gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the economy. "Ahead of its final adoption, our Conference aims to launch a call for an ambitious change of perspective: To shift from powerless to powerful equality", says Elisa Fornalé.

At the conference, participants will focus the current state of women’s participation at national and international levels as well as the challenges and prospects for women’s economic empowerment. On Saturday, February 24, participants are invited to work on the draft United Nations General Recommendation in a workshop format.

This conference is jointly organized by the WTI, the GQUAL Campaign (Claudia Martin) and the Institute of International Relations in Prague (Federica Cristani). The conference is also part of a three-year research project by Elisa Fornalé. The project "Gender Equality in the Mirror (GEM): Clothing the Invisibility of Women’s Participation at the International Level" is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Media representatives are cordially invited to the event:

Participating Panelists:

  • Elisa Fornalé, World Trade Institute, University of Bern
  • Clara Delgado Jesus, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Cabo Verde
  • Alva Bruun, European External Action Service, European Union
  • Javiera Thais Santa Cruz, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
  • Ivana Kristin, UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls
  • Anoush der Boghossian, World Trade Organization
  • Nicole Ameline, UN CEDAW Committee
  • Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia, UN CEDAW Committee
  • Claudia Martin, American University Washington College of Law
  • Isabel Ascension Trujillo Perez, University of Palermo
  • Flavia Bustreo, Global Women Leaders Voices
  • Maura Marchegiani, University for Foreigners of Perugia
  • Elisa Cavasino, University of Palermo
  • Mona Lena Krook, Rutgers University
  • Federica Cristani, Institute of International Relations, Prague
  • Elham Manea, University of Zurich

Speakers available for interviews: Claudia Martin, Federica Cristani and Isabel Ascension Trujillo Perez