What motivates governments to issue pro-poor, pro-gender economic solutions? These two questions are at the heart of Bard College at Simon’s Rock economics faculty member Gul Unal’s recent work with the United Nations. An expert in agriculture and gender economics, Unal was asked to review a UNIFAM paper after one of their members sat in on a workshop she led through Bard’s Levy Institute a few months ago. Not only did Unal review it, she was one of the main authors to rewrite the paper entirely—prompting the UN to invite her to bring the paper to the regional review meetings for the Bejing Platform for Action+15 meetings in Geneva,Switzerland.
A world meeting that seeks to advance women’s rights worldwide, the Bejing Platform was an ideal forum for Unal to apply her expertise. “An economic crisis can be an excuse to reverse gains made by women and poor people. So it’s really important to explain how policies affect this population, and why gender is important in the first place.”
For instance, if a country is concerned with targeting poverty—of which children are the most represented and vulnerable—it is best practice to support women’s earnings. “Women spend eighty to ninety percent of their earnings on their family,” Unal says, “whereas men spend approximately sixty percent of their income on their family.” In other words, research shows that one of the best ways to alleviate poverty is to advance a gender aware (or pro-women) economic policy. That can mean, Unal explains, not only increasing the job opportunities and income available to women, but also advocating for different taxation policies.
Now a consultant for the UN, Unal’s papers are prepared for high-level meetings, like the one she recently attended in Geneva and in Almaty, Kazakhstan. But, she points out they are also written to serve as a resource for advocates. “Academic papers are sometimes written in a way that is only accessible to other academics. Our work for the UN is written so that anyone could read it and use it to progress policy, regardless of their background.” And that’s exciting, she says. “It’s important to me that my work and papers are used in a way that can affect real change.”