On April 26, 2023, the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls published its expected report on “Gendered inequalities of poverty,” which offers a constructive analysis of and accompanying recommendations for confronting the intersecting challenges of gendered socioeconomic inequalities that impact the wellbeing of women and girls worldwide. BAI and IJDH jointly with Nègès Mawon, the Haitian Women’s Collective (HWC), and the Disaster Law Project had submitted information reflecting the experiences of Haitian women and girls in response to the Working Group’s request for inputs. We are pleased to see many of our observations and recommendations reflected in the Working Group’s findings, even as we urge yet deeper reflection on improving the practices and accountability of international actors.
The Working Group report “focuses on poverty and socioeconomic inequality as outcomes of systemic failures that violate multiple human rights of women and girls,” “analy[z]es the cross-cutting conditions of gendered socioeconomic inequality and examines the structural discrimination and drivers within political, economic, cultural and social systems which cause, perpetuate and deepen women’s and girls’ experiences of poverty and inequality.” Importantly, the report also “draws attention to the deficiencies of dominant economic models and methods in accurately capturing, measuring and addressing the impact of poverty and socioeconomic inequality on the rights and substantive equality of women and girls.” In its recommendations, the Working Group urges not only states, but also international organizations and corporations, to “reframe poverty and inequality . . . as issues of global concern that necessitate integrated responses informed by intersectional feminist and human rights-based approaches,” and to look to redistributive policies, including debt cancellation and reparations, as important measures for advancing substantive equality.
The Working Group makes clear that “poverty and inequality are not inevitable. They are the result of structural discrimination that is reflected in the design of laws and policies which have facilitated present and historical injustices.” These must be changed. The Working Group’s recommendations for doing so reflect many of the assessments found in our joint submission, including investing in gender-responsive social protections, implementing accessible and affordable mechanisms to respond to gender-based violence, collecting gender-disaggregated data, and ensuring participation by women in decision-making processes at all levels. Additionally, in line with long-standing demands put forth by Haitian activists, the Working Group recommends international redistributive policies as well as transformation towards a “feminist human rights-based economy,” to be achieved through, inter alia, debt cancellation and reparations. However, international actors must go still further in taking responsibility for and addressing practices harmful to women’s equal enjoyment of human rights. As urged in our joint submission, they must prevent and provide remedies for sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of harm committed by international and humanitarian workers; avoid concentrating aid in the hands of foreign organizations while neglecting local civil society; and address class-related barriers to women’s participation in decision-making processes.