Clinton Global Initiative, Day 2 – Empowering Girls and Women (Plenary)

Moderator is Katie Couric, News Anchor and Managing Editor at CBS News. Panelists are

  • Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah , Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia
  • Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Coca-Cola Company

Mr. Kent’s favorite book is Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat.

Queen Rania notes that the women are working very hard, but their time is not sufficient for everything that needs to be done. Part of this is the mindset (marriage > human capital development), but a significant portion is lack of available infrastructure.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: We started by focusing on women in the “informal sector,” providing educational opportunities and the like.  But this wasn’t enough in either respect: needed to provide more opportunity for work out of home and more protection on government level.

Mr. Kent notes that 70% of his customers are women.  Looked into future development and realized there was a significant mismatch in the company’s efforts, philosophy, and customer base.  “It’s a journey; it doesn’t happen overnight, but we are making good progress.”

Queen Rania notes that “no country can make any progress in spite of its women…They need to be injected into the supply chain.” Have contributed more to GDP than technology gains over past 20 years.  The greatest issue is the amount of time it takes to get an initiative in place and to see positive results from it.

Katie Couric asks how important a role is it to educate boys.  Queen Rania notes that the social attitudes harm boys as much as it does girls.  Girls get married instead of getting a job—but boys are forced to drop out of school to provide for their family.  So both lose in that situation.

Mr. Kent speaks of “microdistribution,” which actually originated at last year’s CGI, when Mr. Kent committed to 1,500 more projects, and that half of those would be women.  Not only passed that target, but they now employ an additional 18,000 people—total of 20,000 employed through 1,500 micro projects.  Barriers that had to be overcome—access to finance and land, especially—resulted in development of Best Practices that is now being spread as the model to South America and other locations.  Next goal: empowerment for 5,000,000 additional women between now and 2020.  Will involve both the distribution and retailing sides of Coca-Cola’s business.  Have mobile support for teaching “the basics of retailing” (e.g., stock rotation).

Some of the symbiotic relationships that enable that: In India, for example, carry water miles to their village.  We provide Clean Water which frees up the women’s time and leads to them to start their entrepreneurial work. Most “become leading citizens in their communities,” which leads to opportunities for expansion. (Gives example of a woman who started with one location and is now franchising and employing sixteen [16] people.)

Asks President Johnson Sirleaf about the “ripple effect,” and what the critical first step is.  For us (Liberia), we started with the first step of education—not formal education so much as access to knowledge.  Schools, literacy training, and a have a program that came out of a program from the CGI a few years ago, in cooperation with the World Bank and Nike, to train adolescent girls to go into the particular job that are currently in demand.

Question from YouTube: access to seeds and market information?  Mr. Khan has a project in cooperation with the Gates Foundation to create entrepreneurship for 50,000 farmers to create juice concentrates needed by Coca-Cola.  Have been working with the farmers—and discovered that only 1% of the land ownership was by women.

Queen Rania notes that in twelve countries in the Middle East, have more girls in school than boys. Biggest challenge is how to get women into the labor market, which (as this paper notes) helps both, as it did in the past.

President Johnson Sirleaf notes that there is no legal restriction in Liberia against women owning land, but there may well be structural issues.  Most farmland development now is being driven by women, “the men rather just play drums.”  (Mr. Khan, in response to a question from Couric, notes that competition makes the entire sea go up—helps both.)

How do we end violence against women and girls?  President Johnson Sirleaf says “we are going to stay the course. Make the penalties more intense—and enforce them. (Her example is making the rape of a four-year-old girl equivalent to murder.)  Queen Rania notes that the Community and Religious leaders need to cooperate as well in this effort to facilitate change. She found that when she started working about the subject of child abuse in Jordan, the first problem was that people denied it existed.  Have to have people confront problems before can solve them.

60% of women and girls in developing countries will be married before they are 18, and will have four children before they are 20.  Why does the issue of child marriage continue to travel under the radar.  Leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries is complications from pregnancy.  Jordan just raised the minimum age for marriage to eighteen (18) in reaction to seeing teenaged girls who have four children and ten years of “work experience.”

Biggest issue in Liberia is the transition into and through secondary school.  Mr. Khan focuses on “golden triangle”: collaboration between government, businesses, and civil society to lead to greater belief in the future and expectations of a future.

Katie notes that she has two teenaged daughters.  Other than bringing international attention to it, what can we do?  Queen Rania recommends Girl Up (which needs a website developer), a project of the United Nations Foundation that supports school supplies, medical checkups, and clean water to facilitate opportunities for girls in other areas.

Mr. Khan reiterates the obvious: families have to believe in the future, that there will be a better future,to make any progress toward long-term development. With a coordinated effort through the “golden triangle,” we will see improvements and developments.

We can only hope he is correct, and that people will find other jobs than just being a Coca-Cola franchisee as the 21st century develops.

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