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Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Human rights issues confronting women and girls in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific region

HARRIS RIMMER, Dr Susan Gail, Director of Studies, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, Australian National University

Committee met at 12:49

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator McEwen ): I declare open this public hearing for the inquiry into human rights issues confronting women and girls in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific region by the Human Rights Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Welcome. I wish to advise you that in giving evidence to the subcommittee you are protected by parliamentary privilege. I also remind you of the obligation not to give false or misleading evidence. To do so may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament.

These are public proceedings, although the subcommittee will consider requests to have evidence heard in camera. If a witness objects to answering a question, they should state the ground for that objection and the subcommittee will consider the matter. I ask yourself to refrain from naming individuals who may be associated with cases of human rights abuses so as to protect the privacy of individuals.

And now I will invite you to make an opening statement to the subcommittee before we proceed to questions. Away you go.

Dr Harris Rimmer : The Australian National University Gender Institute welcomes the opportunity to brief this very important committee. We are very pleased that the government is looking into this issue at this time because it is of increasing prominence in our general foreign policy and also to make the most of our investments in the Australian aid program following the integration of DFAT and AusAID.

We are hoping to help the committee with certain, specific issues, but, obviously, can also take any other research inquiries on board. But today we wanted to focus particularly on the barriers and impediments in enhancing the human rights of women and girls. We want to focus particularly on regional organisations, especially in the Indian Ocean region. We thought that the Indian Ocean region has probably not come out enough in the evidence, so we might be able to help the community a little around the Indian Ocean Rim Association and other organisations that deal with that area of the world, following some work we have been doing with DFAT. We can also talk about ASEAN and the Pacific Island Forum.

We are also going to supplement the evidence the committee has previously heard around the issues of economic opportunities, in particular, and women's economic empowerment., again, to try to make the most out of the new aid paradigm in its focus on economic diplomacy. We are particularly interested in tying this economic diplomacy focus with some deeper understanding of the political economy of violence, which the committee has heard a lot of evidence on already—about violence against women and girls in the region.

So we are hoping to supplement what the committee has already heard. As a researcher I do a very wide range of range of research on women's rights in the region so, hopefully, I can help the committee across a wide range of areas. We have two issues that we are particularly interested in. We are interested in the committee adopting a definition of women's economic empowerment that focuses on two issues, taking the World Bank and the IMF definitions. That is, both an increase in overall income and material wellbeing as one aspect, but also an aspect of women's economic empowerment that deals with power and decision-making. This double-barrel definition of women's economic empowerment is becoming increasingly important in soft law at the United Nations, but it is nowhere yet defined in declarations or norms. But we hope the committee will think of that double-pronged attitude towards women's economic empowerment.

We are also urging the committee to be very creative about this issue, because it is an area where Australia can assume global leadership. Unfortunately, because of all the barriers and neglect of these issues in the past, it is an area where a country can show deep leadership and Australia is already becoming known for this type of leadership through a variety of activities it has done in the last few years. So, this is an area where Australia can really make its mark and we need Australia to think as creatively as possible and to be quite specific about what it wants to achieve. The ability to show leadership in this region—and by 'region' I am thinking laterally about the wider Indian Ocean, Asia-Pacific region, as the committee is. The opportunities are almost limitless and do not often require massive investment either, but a different way of thinking and dealing with the issues: a different type of diplomacy. So that concludes my opening remarks.

ACTING CHAIR: All right. Perhaps you could just elaborate there on what you mean by 'limitless'. That is great in terms of opportunities, but also a bit scary in terms of where you actually put your resources and energies. So can you direct us a bit there?

Dr Harris Rimmer : In relation to what Minister Bishop has outlined as the new aid paradigm, she has considered Aid for Trade, tourism, economic diplomacy and women's economic empowerment as overall themes, and also a partnership with the private sector. Within those areas, there is a lot of room to manoeuvre. Also, within the traditional focus of the other program on violence against women and political representation, there is a lot more that could be done. In this region we do not seem to have the investment that, say, other parts of the world have from the global community, so when I say, 'Opportunities are limitless', within the government's original defined priorities there are a wide range of opportunities. There is very little known about the impact of, for example, private sector investment on women's rights in our region. It is a clear blue-sky field. There is some risk involved with that, but all of the economic evidence we have, which I am really happy to go through, shows that the good money—the smart money—is on investing in women's economic empowerment.

What is unusual about this moment in history is that the traditional economists and the women's movement are converging with the same set of recommendations. It is exciting and it is sometimes uncomfortable, but it is true. We have the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and traditional women's movement organisations all lining up around the same set of recommendations. That is very unusual, and I can go through why that is in terms of the megatrends, but it is a great opportunity. It means that we are going to have very solid economic evidence for the investments that we are making.

ACTING CHAIR: In terms of your comments in your opening statement about how Australia has shown leadership in this area already, what are some examples of leadership that has been shown and has successfully improved the lot of women and girls in our region?

Dr Harris Rimmer : I would say there are five. Under the previous Gillard government there was the appointment of the Ambassador for Women and Girls. That was continued by the Abbott government. That is a very important investment. One is the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and another is the national action plan to prevent violence against women and girls. Though these are domestic plans, they have significant resonance overseas as comparators in good practice. Then we have the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, which was a very innovative program. Under the current government we have had Julie Bishop talking continuously about how the investment of the aid program needs to show that 80 per cent of it is going to benefit gender equality. She has also made a significant investment in being a champion to prevent sexual violence in conflict, and our Chief of Army was sent to the UK summit to prevent sexual violence in conflict with Natasha Stott Despoja, our ambassador.

The government has also taken what I think is an exciting step to try to promote women's economic empowerment within the Indian Ocean Rim Association. At the October meeting that is coming up in Perth there will hopefully be a declaration by the ministers that they want to invest in women's economic empowerment—there was a preliminary event held in Malaysia, and I was privileged to be a consultant for that. We have also been very actively involved in the APEC women in business initiative and the ASEAN women's and children's commission. Bilaterally there are probably a lot of initiatives that I am not completely across, but I do know that in Myanmar and the Pacific regional programs there is a very strong gender focus.

What you could say is that what the Australian government has been doing, if you looked across the board, is really promising and that it is acknowledged. At the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, where I was with Senator Cash, everywhere we went it was smiles and flowers. Australia has this legacy of caring and also modelling particular behaviour—strong ministers and strong representation for a considerable period of time. Australia has this reputation already. What it probably does not have is a joined-up, strategic approach to these issues across portfolios, and I think that could be done. We can see how that works under David Cameron in the UK, where there was a very significant strategic investment in gender equality issues and foreign policy. Under Hillary Clinton there was a very large investment in gender equality outcomes across the state department, and it made an impact on the soft power of those countries. That is what I am hoping we are moving towards.

Mr RUDDOCK: What is a virtual institute? I read that you have another title and you seem to work for other departments. I assume this is some lobby within the university that gives itself the name as an institute rather than being an institute of the university.

Dr Harris Rimmer : Yes, that is right. It is a network. So what it is is all the academics of the ANU—

Mr RUDDOCK: It is a fairly misleading name, isn't it?

Dr Harris Rimmer : Well, that is what the vice-chancellor wanted us to be.

Mr RUDDOCK: Is that right?

Dr Harris Rimmer : The previous one, Mr Chubb. We have the status of an institute, but we are a network of all the academic researchers across the university interested in gender.

Mr RUDDOCK: I would probably report you to the ACCC as being misleading and deceptive!

Dr Harris Rimmer : Well, I am very happy to also speak for myself at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy.

Mr RUDDOCK: If I were looking at measurable outcomes from all of the comments that you have offered, are there any of these sorts of improvements that you have noted which we could say are measurable outcomes that we could relate to what we are investing?

Dr Harris Rimmer : Sure. What Minister Bishop has demanded from the Australian aid program is a clear causal nexus between the investment and gender equality outcomes for 80 per cent of the programs. At the moment, they are going through a benchmarking exercise under Senator Mason. That is yet to be fully revealed, but it is going to show us how DFAT is going to change its system so that it can do this. We already report to the OECD about how our programs impact on gender equality outcomes. This is just going to be sharper than what we already report to the OECD. So that is the aid program.

The really exciting opportunity, I think, is in trade. There is a whole lot of evidence that says that, if you do a more studied gender analysis of trade outcomes and you have a more sophisticated gender understanding of trade agreements, you are going to get better outcomes that are more sustainable and beneficial, in terms of GDP, for both countries or for regional trade agreements. There are also measurable outcomes, I believe, in terms of our diplomatic power. As you can see by the reputation of some countries like Norway or Canada, they are heavily built around their investment in gender equality issues.

Mr RUDDOCK: So you are saying there are measurable outcomes?

Dr Harris Rimmer : Yes.

Mr RUDDOCK: Can you give me some of those measures?

Dr Harris Rimmer : In terms of? Well, the OECD—

Mr RUDDOCK: What we have actually achieved—measurably.

Dr Harris Rimmer : We could for the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program.

Mr RUDDOCK: You could?

Dr Harris Rimmer : Yes—or AusAID can.

Mr RUDDOCK: But you have not done it.

Dr Harris Rimmer : But I cannot. It is an AusAID—or DFAT—program. But I can take that on notice and get back to you.

Mr RUDDOCK: I would find it helpful. I tend to look at all of these things in terms of what we are able to achieve. You are talking in terms of 'leadership' and 'limitless', and that sort of thing. I think about whether leadership may, in fact, be self-defeating, in that you have a whole lot of people with institutionalised prejudice against women that are not going to change and the more you try and belt your head up against it the less help you will be. I want to be convinced that, if you are going to belt up against it, it is going to produce a measurable and helpful outcome.

Dr Harris Rimmer : Sure.

Mr RUDDOCK: If you understand what I am saying.

Dr Harris Rimmer : I totally understand what you are saying. The IMF has basically said that, if countries adopted fairly basic gender policies, they could increase their GDP by up to 25 per cent. I can give you all of that modelling that the IMF has done. The IMF is not a progressive feminist organisation, if I could put it that way—even under Ms Lagarde. This is why I think there is an exciting opportunity. You know my predilection, Mr Ruddock, as we have known each other a long time. You know I am a progressive feminist type.

Mr RUDDOCK: Oh, how could I think that!

Dr Harris Rimmer : But what is exciting at the moment is it is not people like me saying this is a good investment; it is people like the IMF saying this is a good investment.

Mr RUDDOCK: And if they are able to persuade people on the basis of evidence that that is what they should be doing then I think that is great.

Dr Harris Rimmer : Well, look at Japan—

Mr RUDDOCK: And, when you say to me that you are utilising all of the skills of your people and if you are dismissing 50 per cent of your population, those sorts of things seem reasonable. But, sometimes, when you go along and tell a whole lot of people that they have prejudices and that they have to change, they think they are being belted up on rather than being persuaded.

Dr Harris Rimmer : Yes, that is right, and that is not the way our Ambassador for Women and Girls works—or has done in any of the manifestations. It is certainly solutions-oriented, sharing common experience in Australia and the country that we engage with, to say, 'We're both facing the same struggles around female labour force participation, around social policy and social protections and around increased economic growth. What is the dialogue that can benefit us both?' It is not coming from a place of, 'Your culture is somehow negative towards women,' or any of that. It is coming from a, 'What are our shared solutions that we are both struggling with, and where can we see progress?'

That is where most modern diplomacy is coming from. NATO now has a Policy on Women, Peace and Security and an adviser. Again, NATO is not the YWCA; they are coming from the perspective of, 'How can we have a sustainable peace operation? We need to have better strategies to deal with our capability when it comes to dealing with half the population.'

This capabilities approach and this operational efficiency approach—I operate from a human rights approach, but I can see the benefit of that approach, and if the committee takes that approach I can see that as being beneficial. The problem you can have is where it is too instrumental: 'We want to increase our GDP, therefore we are going to put a whole lot of poor women in economic zones and make them do particular unskilled work—say, in garments,' and that will lead to issues, as we have seen in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is changing that instrumental approach to the way it treats its female workforce.

So it cannot be too instrumentalised, which is why I am talking about the committee taking a voice and material wellbeing approach.

Mr RUDDOCK: I am looking at the recommendations, of which there are three. I am trying to pin them all down in terms of measurable outcomes. The work of the Ambassador for Women and Girls should be commended. I am happy to say that it should be commended. But 'further resourced with the inclusion of special envoys'? I ask myself—and I was looking to see where it was argued—what are we expecting special envoys? How much would it cost? What value will we get from it? What measurable outcomes might we expect to achieve from it? That is a recommendation—have I just not read the submission fully? Or does it just stand alone as it appears?

Dr Harris Rimmer : It stands alone as it appears because the wider committee has done some thinking about special envoys in the past, but a while ago. It is because I do not actually know—I was hoping you would ask DFAT some of the logical questions around that, because it is up to them to tell me about the resourcing issues.

From my understanding, special envoys do not actually have to be members of the public service, are not expensive and have had very good outcomes in the past. I have been trying to do some research on the history of Australian special envoys and there is a lot of knowledge here. But I am talking about what is happening in Sweden, in Canada and in Norway. They appoint special envoys for particular purposes. For example, female entrepreneurship, which is something I never thought I would see. But it is a business person—so it is one of Sweden's foremost businessmen—who is a champion for female entrepreneurship when he travels around the world.

It is an example of creativity, to model certain values. I am thinking particularly about the incredible representational value of our Male Champions of Change program. It is an Australian domestic program, but it has a lot of resonance internationally. Everywhere I go now they ask me about the Male Champions of Change program. The Chief of Army has basically taken that role, unofficially. He is going all over the place, representing Australia on wider economic gender equality.

Mr RUDDOCK: So what you are suggesting is to take the Chief of Army and anoint him as special envoy, and when he is just travelling he says, 'I'm a special envoy,' and—

Dr Harris Rimmer : I was thinking of when he had retired.

Mr RUDDOCK: Or are you talking about people who have a title and certain entitlements and who, again, are going to be funded to travel? I just read it and I started looking in the submission to see where it was argued as to what you were seeking and what I might expect to get from it, and I could not find it.

Dr Harris Rimmer : I can certainly provide some more information on that—another attachment. I am happy to do that, with examples of special envoys around the world. It is not something that Australia has really done but it is because Minister Bishop is interested in this innovation hub and more private sector involvement. I thought it might be a space we could move into.

I see it as having particular advantages. For myself, obviously, I am interested in career diplomats doing some of this work. But I have seen through Natasha Stott-Despoja's role that she is not a career diplomat but she brings a different set of qualities to that role—and these qualities have been incredibly valuable. We have a lot of Australians who do amazing work and represent us overseas all the time. The idea of harnessing them in a more strategic way for Australian foreign policy is something I think we should consider. This is a particular area where I think the qualities of the person, and what they represent, are very important. So when we send our Chief of Army to these summits, it has a particular impact. I am sure you could prevail upon David after he retires to be a special envoy for women's rights. I am sure you could ask him that; he would love that. But, at the moment, I think he is pretty busy being Chief of Army.

ACTING CHAIR: You mentioned that information there from the IMF. I think it would be useful for the committee's deliberation to have some evidence about the importance to a nation's GDP of the economic empowerment of women. So if you could provide something—and there is no rush.

Dr Harris-Rimmer : Yes.

Ms PARKE: Thank you, Dr Harris-Rimmer, for your presentation and for being with us today. You mentioned Bangladesh. That is a particular interest of mine. Of course there is the concern that we all have around the conditions of factory workers, particularly women. There is another side to development in Bangladesh which I saw when I visited BRAC. Are you aware of BRAC?

Dr Harris-Rimmer : Yes.

Ms PARKE: It is, I think, the world's largest NGO with a focus on empowerment of women and a holistic approach to poverty alleviation in every sense. I am just wondering about the new paradigm that talks about the private sector. Do you think that is flexible enough to encompass social enterprise and community banks, like Grameen and BRAC, that actually do the micro-enterprise work with women and are having incredible results in places like Bangladesh?

Dr Harris-Rimmer : BRAC is such an interesting organisation because it is the only NGO that has an agreement with DFAT which is at the same status as a country agreement, because it is such a large NGO and because it acts as a sort of shadow social protection for Bangladesh. I was very privileged to host Sir Fazle Abed when he met with Minister Bishop recently. In my previous life with the Australian Council for International Development, we had a lot to do with BRAC. It is also an international NGO now, so it is very interesting. It is in Tanzania; it is in Afghanistan.

The new aid paradigm as it relates to social enterprise, from what I can gather from the innovation hub, in particular, is interested in social impact investment and social entrepreneurship. BRAC, again, is a fascinating example. Sir Fazle did not set out to improve the rights of women. He set out to improve the overall life expectancy and mortality rates of Bangladeshis. He decided that focusing on Bangladeshi women and girls was the way to achieve that. He is a very interesting person. It is all set out in leaked biography. His first program was around trying to stop children dying from diarrhoea. So trying to improve child mortality was his first outcome. He realised that, because of power dynamics and issues at the household level, it was not working. His program to introduce a basic diarrhoea hydration salts formula at the household level was not succeeding because of gender issues that he had not understood. So he went back to the drawing board and dealt with those issues, and has improved overall Bangladesh's child mortality rate over 10 years. If you want to talk about measurable outcomes, BRAC has a lot of them. And that one is a classic. By being gender aware and gender sensitive, the overall success of the program was enhanced. He learnt through evidence-based policy what was going wrong and what was not. So they are a really great example. BRAC are not really a micro-enterprise; they are massive. They have massive dairies.

Ms PARKE: I am talking about their loans.

Dr Harris Rimmer : Their loans? The microfinance?

Ms PARKE: Yes.

Dr Harris Rimmer : Yes, BRAC have factories and all kinds of stuff. They are very interesting. I thought Fazle's view about the workers' rights issue and the rights of female workers was very interesting. He has written in The New York Times about it—that it is a stepping phase that Bangladesh needs to go through for labour to organise and to demand certain rights. In spite of the tragedy of the fire, he felt that there were good outcomes and those outcomes needed to be dialogue between the private sector and civil society. That is happening in Bangladesh. I think overall it is a very good news story coming out of that tragedy.

Ms PARKE: It is happening in Australia too—private enterprise engaging on that issue.

Dr Harris Rimmer : Yes. The idea is to think of private enterprise as a crucial actor for both foreign policy and social outcomes. In this area, some of the most innovative things happening in Australia are happening through private companies, and not always the companies you would expect, either—Shell and various other companies. Where that is happening—the ANZ Bank giving domestic violence leave to its staff; Westpac talking about giving carer credits to add to people's superannuation—it is good stuff. It is innovative, it is interesting, and it might not happen on a national level through government for a while. If they can be on the cusp of some of these developments, that is exciting. But we always have to recognise that business has a particular model that it needs to prosecute. Business itself is so diverse, just as civil society is diverse. But I do think that most larger companies are seeing this as part of their overall brand reputation, and this is a good thing.

ACTING CHAIR: How important do you think it is to have women in leadership positions, particularly in private enterprise, to prosecute some of these innovative changes? What kind of recommendations could we come up with to ensure that women are better represented in leadership positions, not just in politics but also in business?

Dr Harris Rimmer : I find it really interesting. I do a lot of work on the Group of 20 nations. Most of the time they make military organisations and other traditional masculinist organisations look like a feminist picnic. G20 is a very high finance, high economic governance forum. Women are very under-represented. Australia is very unusual in having a female sherpa, Heather Smith. We have had some very significant women involved in economic governance. But, if you look at the Reserve Bank or any of our major finance institutions, we have some issues there. Economic governance is an area where we have not concentrated enough: women in central banks, women in finance, women in the traditional fiscal portfolios within government—making sure that women are encouraged in those areas is a really important area of focus.

Minister Cash and I fundamentally disagree about how to go about this, but I think the exchange is very fruitful. Her view is you need targets. Targets are incredibly useful, and I have seen that with the stock exchange. If you have transparency and targets, that makes a difference. I still believe there is a need for quotas and for a certain critical mass of a third, as most of the research says. You simply do not get that in enough time if you rely on voluntary targets, in my view. Oxfam just released a report saying we might have to wait 75 years to get equal pay if we rely on voluntary targets. I know at my own university the modelling is that we will not have gender parity at senior levels of the university for 150 years if we do not have some sort of progressive measure. You can get there, I think. Things like the Male Champions of Change are really great, really wonderful. I am seeing that play out in Prime Minister and Cabinet very well through Ian Watt's leadership. But you need a range of measures, and I think they need to be institution-specific. With the Reserve Bank, the culture of the bank is such that it needs to be appropriate to that culture.

ACTING CHAIR: In your submission and in your opening statement you talked positively about how economic empowerment of women is being taken up by economists and by governments of developing nations sometimes, and it is not just a feminist argument anymore. What kind of buy-in to that position is there from the governments of the nations about which we are talking?

Dr Harris Rimmer : It is interesting—all governments want to increase their gross domestic product and all governments generally want to increase their level of political legitimacy and international reputation, but Mr Ruddock is completely right—these are very strong norms that we are dealing with. The World Bank has just released a very interesting report about norms which I will give to the secretary, and the interplay between norms and laws around the world. The evidence is clear that norms of behaviour and unconscious bias are very strong around these issues. But it depends. You see countries like Japan that are facing particular economic growth issues—and, again, for reasons that have nothing to do with their deep belief in the human rights system, they see investment in women as the best outcome for GDP. Nations take decisions. India lost millions of tourism dollars and it took a hit to its GDP when its reputation for sexual violence was so high in the international arena. South Africa is frequently often ranked very low for tourism because of those issues. So these domestic gender issues can play out in international relations in particular ways. Sometimes countries have a basic national interest in investing in particular areas over others, but for me the most energy I have seen is around gross national income, and Japan in particular has been very clear about trying to make investments. Canada is the case study that all the economists use. They have a strategic plan about boosting female labour participation, and they increase their GDP as a result. That is what everyone is looking at. Brazil, with their Bolsa Familia program, has a specific strategy of investing in the poorest of the poor through women. It has achieved great leaps in all its measurables across human development and across GNI. I think most countries are quite different in their reasoning. In ASEAN there is a real interest in becoming more of a community, and they think investing in their social pillar is an important part of that. There are a range of reasons. For the Indian Ocean Rim Association, it was all about trade. They had gone as far as they could go with the traditional thinking. They needed to go into new terrain.

ACTING CHAIR: How do you make the leap from that to women genuinely being able to access their right to safety, security, health care, education, sexual and reproductive health services et cetera? Even though you might have a country where women are working and earning an income and that increases the GDP, how do you make the connection to the access to human rights?

Dr Harris Rimmer : The evidence is not actually what you expect. The World Bank report is basically saying that the link between education and gender equality is not made, so you can invest heavily in education of girls but not have it translate into overall gender equality outcomes for the population—which is not what we expected. Higher income per household does not necessarily translate into overall gender equality measures. Because the UNDP have been capturing this on the Gender Inequality Index for about the last eight years, we finally know what is going on. It does not quite work in the way we thought it would work. That is because the barriers are really substantial. When I talk about opportunity, I do not wish to leave the committee in any doubt that the barriers to gender equality in every country in the world are very significant. They basically relate to a whole lot of intersecting deprivations that mean that women have no time, or agency or material wellbeing to claim certain public spaces.

They are very serious. I could go through what they are; you have heard a lot of it in the previous evidence that I have heard, but in the economic area barriers are quite extraordinary. We think that since World War II we have been on an inexorable path to increase in women's participation in the formal economy and it is not true. Again, another thing that we thought was true and which is not true: we have fallen, globally, from 58 per cent to 55 per cent in the last two years—it is going backwards to from what was. And men's participation fell slightly from 80 per cent to 78 per cent overall. But we have this idea that women all over the world are streaming into the public workforce; it is simply not true—or not as true as it was perhaps for our parents generation.

Some of the barriers: there are the foundations—education and literacy; when women are employed, they are often employed in precarious or temporary positions, or they are employed in work that has no formal value—so it has not been ascribed to formal value by that society, like caring work or underpaid agricultural labour; where they are employed in the formal economy they are not paid the same as men, which we know; and they have lower nutrition rates.

The next one is the area which I think is really important: it is called access to productive resources. This is the new area that the IMF is looking at and which basically says that women are not going to be able to enter the formal economy while they do not have access to land, which is a form of collateral for most financial transactions; while they do not have the right to have a bank account, or there are literacy issues in opening a bank account; or while they have very limited access to financial services. And there is the new thing that Melissa was talking about after microfinance and microloans: the new thing is microfranchising, which everyone is very excited about. Because not everybody is an entrepreneur, microfranchising is seen as a lower risk.

They do not necessarily have access to the same levels of technology or information—so, there are information deficits for women, who often are not in public spaces in the same way as men. That is very important. And there is access to markets, in terms of physical security or just infrastructure deficits.

This is very global—I could give you specific country examples, but it is pretty significant. And it is just in terms of representation in public and private sector leadership and female entrepreneurship. I think female entrepreneurship is really the canary down the mine for some of this, because if you take the most entrepreneurially-minded of the female population and watch their particular struggles you get a very interesting perspective on what that society can and cannot produce in terms of economic outcomes for women. So people are very interested in female small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs at the moment as the vanguard for all the rest of us entering the formal workforce.

So those are just the economic barriers, without talking about violence. It is pretty extraordinary. But this access to productive resources discussion is really fruitful, because I think a lot of the discussions tend to talk about how somehow women are not confident enough. It does not matter how confident you are if you do not own any collateral—you are still not going to get a loan and you are not going to be able to open a bank account. Do you know what I mean? I think that this discussion about structural barriers is really very useful.

ACTING CHAIR: There are no other questions? Thank you very much for coming in and providing that useful evidence to the committee. We have asked you to provide a bit of additional information, so if you could provide links or whatever to the secretariat that would be very much appreciated, and any other information that you think would be useful to our deliberations would be welcome too.

Thank you very much for taking the time to appear before the committee today.

Resolved that these proceedings be published.

Committee adjourned at 13:29