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G20 Update: Russian Finance Minister Mocks Women

At the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov joked towards the end of a briefing on Financial Inclusion that “women consume a lot, so they need help with their financial management". At a summit where women are largely absent – and where the communiques hardly mention gender – Siluanov’s quip is
The G20 – a self-selected club that calls itself the ‘world’s premiere forum for international economic cooperation’ – proudly notes that G20 countries represent 2/3 of the world’s population and 90% of global GDP. Yet among the twenty-one G20 leaders (there are two representatives from the European Union), only four are women. (Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Korea). Six additional countries and seven international organisations were also invited to the summit. Of these groups, there is only one woman (Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.)
“The G20 supposedly represents two-thirds of the world’s population, but there are almost no women in the room,” notes Michael Switow of the Feminist Task Force and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.  “The impact on G20 policies is clear. While women perform the bulk of the world’s labour, and are routinely paid less than men, the G20 communiques are largely gender-blind, ignoring women altogether.”
“How can Russia’s Finance Minister – at an official G20 briefing – be so flippant and dismissive to women?” adds Switow. “If there were a clearer recognition of women’s contributions to the economy and their communities, the G20 would be more serious about empowering women, instead of joking about them.”
In the St. Petersburg Development Outlook – the G20’s main policy statement on ‘ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity’ – “women” are mentioned just two times, “gender” is mentioned only once.
On the positive side, the G20 notes that nutrition and food security policies must focus on smallholder and family farmers, with a particular emphasis on “gender equality and women empowerment”. However there are no new actions in this area, aside from conducting a review of “critical opportunities” by March 2014.
On the issue of Financial Inclusion, which the Russian Finance Minister so inappropriately highlighted, the G20 notes that more than two billion adults lack access to financial services and that as a result many people fall into poverty every year. The G20 pledges to promote ‘financial literacy, education and consumer protection for the poor, in particular vulnerable groups such as women, youth and migrants’.
G20 Gender Gap
Too often, though, the G20 views women as 'vulnerable' populations and narrowly within the context of specific sectors like agricultural production, education, financial services and health. Instead, the G20 should take a more comprehensive view of gender issues and recognise women's vital contributions to their communities and the
"The G20 must address the gender gap. Women are drivers of economic development and social progress," says Rosa Lizarde of the Feminist Task Force, a constituency of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. "It should establish a G20 task force on gender equality and follow-up on the 2012 Los Cabos G20 Declaration, which promises concrete actions to integrate gender into the G20 agenda and realise women's full economic and social participation."
This media release was issued jointly by the Feminist Task Force and GCAP.