UNDP’s 8 Women video series attempts to break down stereotypes in the workplace, showcasing women’s talents in fields ranging from wine-making to electrical engineering.
“Before we had all this equipment – the 1 and 2 kilo weights, the balls, the body pumps,” Carolina explains, “we were training using bottles filled with water.”
The water bottles are a striking symbolism of how far this woman has come. A fitness instructor and self-made entrepreneur from Moldova, Carolina’s story may look ordinary from the outside. But it is only one in a sea of stories of women navigating challenges placed in front of them by society, family and even jealous partners.
Carolina was engaged to be married, but her beau was not exactly the supportive type. “He kept telling me I had my head in the clouds. I was constantly having to navigate the obstacles he placed in front of me,” she says. “Yeah,” she thinks for a moment. “So I won this grant, bought the equipment, and started my own business. And I broke up with him.”
She speaks in her native language, but her triumph is universal: here is the woman who broke up with her dream guy and went for her dream job instead. Now the sports medals shine and blur in the background while she tells her story.
Carolina is one of the eight women profiled in UNDP’s 8 Women series for International Women’s Day. The series celebrates women making a difference in their communities. From a construction business owner in Skopje who is battling stereotypes on a daily basis to a mayor in Albania who’s broken the glass ceiling and now fighting for the women in her community, these are stories of inspiration, triumph and resilience.
With less than one third of businesses in the eastern Europe and central Asia region owned or co-owned by women, UNDP’s regional bureau wanted to make a statement on the pervasiveness of gender inequality in the labour market.
To continue development, countries must legally allow women to work in all sectors and own businesses, support women’s employment and entrepreneurship, and combat gender stereotypes, according to UNDP’s 2016 report on human development in eastern Europe, Turkey and central Asia.
“You just can’t have economic growth if women are left behind,” says Bharati Sadasivam, an Istanbul-based UNDP gender expert. “With many economies in the region facing slowdowns, it’s time to channel women’s untapped economic potential to accelerate sustainable development.”
While eastern Europe and central Asia are faring better than many parts of the developing world in terms of gender equality, disparities between men and women today pose a significant threat to the region’s development.
Most countries register a 10 to 20 percentage point difference between men’s and women’s labour force participation rates, which is significantly higher than in developed countries.
Women continue to face more challenges than men in getting a job or accessing credit and technology to open a business and are still receiving less pay for the same job. Moreover, more women find themselves in less secure and less rewarded jobs and are under-represented as employers.
In addition, unpaid domestic work and child care continue to limit women’s economic prospects, since they still do much more of it than men.
The persistence of gender stereotypes and traditional attitudes continue to hamper women’s rights in both the public and the private spheres.
The 8 Women series is an attempt to break down stereotypes in the workplace, showcasing women’s exceptional talents in fields ranging from wine-making to electrical engineering. The women featured are not commonly profiled by media outlets – they hail from Georgia, Tajikistan and Ukraine, among others – and their stories serve as a powerful reminder of the need to continue the fight for gender equality.