This piece was first posted on the WAGE blog:
The ABA ROLI-led Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) consortium, funded by the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, is pleased to announce its new initiative “Reducing Barriers to Women’s Economic Empowerment in Moldova.” Through the initiative, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and ABA ROLI will aim to build and support an alliance of women’s organizations to increase women’s participation in economic activity in Moldova.
Moldovan women’s employment rate is the lowest among other European countries, with only 44.6 percent of women engaged in the labor force. Additionally, Moldova has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in Europe, around 63 percent of Moldovan women above the age of 15 may have experienced psychological, physical, or sexual violence in their lifetime.
The Moldovan government has signed and ratified numerous international conventions promoting gender equality; however, patriarchal norms, lack of political will, and lack of funding for existing government policies still inhibit Moldovan women from fully and freely participating in the economy and society. Widespread gender-based violence, as well as social expectations around women’s roles and care responsibilities, create barriers to women’s professional development. A recent study showed that 90.5 percent of men and 81.5 percent of women consider women’s most important priority to be domestic work.
Women account for only 27.5 percent of entrepreneurs in Moldova and are mostly segregated into lower-paying occupations where they are less likely to assume business leadership positions. The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified these challenges by threatening the existence of small and medium enterprises that tend to employ the most women, further limiting opportunities for women and keeping them out of the workforce at a time when domestic violence has dramatically surged.
While there have been numerous initiatives in Moldova focused on gender-based violence or supporting women’s entrepreneurship, this new WAGE initiative is the first program to take an integrated approach to improve the enabling environment for women in the economy. The program will bring together a broad and diverse coalition of women’s civil society associations and private sector organizations to examine and address social, policy, and other barriers to women’s equal participation, including gender-based violence. Alongside local partners like the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Policy (CAPE) and the Women’s Law Center CIPE and ABA ROLI will seek to create an inclusive economic environment enabling Moldovan women to lead more resilient, independent, and economically sustainable lives.