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Service for Foreign Policy Instruments
News article25 September 2020Service for Foreign Policy Instruments

Empowered women work wonders

WE Empower graphic

Through the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), the EU, UN Women, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are supporting women’s businesses as they seek to recover from the effects of COVID-19. This support includes bringing together governments, businesses, and civil society to find solutions to the specific problems women-owned businesses face.

COVID-19 has exacerbated gender inequalities and poses a serious threat to the fragile gains made for women’s economic empowerment since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were adopted in 1995.

The pandemic has put women’s businesses especially at risk, as they are concentrated in some of the worst hit sectors and industries. In many countries, businesses owned by women face additional challenges related to structural inequalities that make it difficult for women business owners to access information, finance, markets, and networks.

The recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic offers the opportunity to enable an ecosystem that fosters gender equality, and where women entrepreneurs can contribute to sustainable growth.

As the United Nations turns 75, the EU reiterates its strong commitment to women’s economic empowerment and calls for enhanced global efforts to make the WEPs a reality. During a side event to the 2020 UN General Assembly, the Head of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), Hilde Hardeman, highlighted how the collaboration between the EU, UN Women, and the ILO through the WE Empower project has prevented backtracking on women’s rights during the pandemic.

To capitalise on the potential of women’s talent for growth and development, the EU, UN Women, and the ILO also bring together businesses, governments, and civil society through the WE Empower in G7 countries, the WE Empower in Asia, and the Win Win: Gender Equality means good business projects. The synergies between the public sector, private sector, and civil society play an important role in supporting entrepreneurial activity – especially women-owned SMEs. As economies and societies get back on their feet, this is instrumental to create stronger, more inclusive, and more equal economies in the post-COVID-19 era.


The WEPs are a set of principles offering guidance to business on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community. By joining the WEPs community, the CEO signals commitment to this agenda at the highest levels of the company and to work collaboratively in multi-stakeholder networks to foster business practices that empower women.

Established by UN Global Compact and UN Women, the WEPs are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Read more about the Women’s Empowerment Principles.


Publication date
25 September 2020
Service for Foreign Policy Instruments