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Five Takeaways from the UN ECOSOC Gender Lens Panel

Five Takeaways from the UN ECOSOC Gender Lens Panel

Five Takeaways from Gender Lens: Closing the SDG Financing Gap and Leaving No One Behind

SEAF Managing Director Bob Webster traveled to New York earlier this week to speak at a side session of the UN ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development the main follow-up and review mechanism for the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

The event was organized by Global Affairs Canada to promote a better understanding of gender lens investing (GLI) to help narrow the financing gap to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The focus of the discussion centered on the role of governments and gender lens investing.

The panel was moderated by Katrina Ngo, a Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships at the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). Bob’s fellow panelists included GLI pioneer and expert Joy Anderson, President and Founder of the Criterion Institute, Ariane Ryan, Inclusive Economies Advisor from the World University Service of Canada, Abdul-Rahman Lediju, Investment Specialist with the UN Capital Development Fund and Anne Amanda Bangasser, Managing Director at Treehouse Investments. H.E. Ambassador Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations, began the panel with opening remarks and Deirdre Kent, Director General of the International Assistance Policy Coordination Bureau at Global Affairs Canada provided the closing remarks. The audience included UN member state representatives, civil society organizations and the private sector. Below we share some key takeaways from the discussion.

  • Governments and the private sector have collaborated to help bring gender lens investing into the mainstream, but there is more work to be done. Bob Webster cited the example of how the Australian government prompted SEAF to launch its pilot SEAF Women’s Opportunity Fund (SWOF) through critical grant funding. The pilot led to the rapid emergence of SEAF as a leading gender lens impact investing firm as evidenced by its SWOF investments, the development of its Gender Equality Scorecard© to improve gender equity within its investees and its recently developed fund products to support women’s economic empowerment.
  • The private sector could benefit from the gender specialists that government and development agencies often have on staff as private companies frequently do not have those individuals to help them better frame their gender lens investing strategy.
  • Governments could also do more to hold their development finance institutions accountable in terms of prioritizing impact over returns. Allowing the DFIs to incur some additional risk would likely allow for key impact goals to be achieved.
  • Technical assistance and concessionary loan products are useful tools to help women-led SMEs to scale and succeed. Two examples were given of how these two tools were instrumental in the success of two Tanzanian, women-led SMEs to scale and obtain additional financing. One woman led a cold chain operation that sourced from over 500 smallholder horticulture farmers and the other was an agro-processor that purchased approximately 90% of its rice, maize and eggs from women farmers and sold its product through women micro-entrepreneurs.
  • Despite the fact that concessionary capital can be quite helpful in leading these GLI, caution was encouraged with regards to sending a message that this GLI strategy is riskier, or perhaps viewed as inferior, when this is not actually the case. Widespread research proves that investing in women is one of the quickest ways to access and generate wealth globally, in part as women spend more money on average on their family than themselves.

Photo credit: Canadian Mission UN (@CanadaUN)

Read more about SEAF’s women’s economic empowerment and gender lens investing work here.

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