News & events


01 August 2023

W20 SUMMIT 2023: Paving the way for women’s empowerment and gender equality

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The W20 Summit is a prestigious event that has been making waves since its inception in 2015. As an official engagement group under the G20, its mission is clear: to champion gender equity and women’s empowerment on a global scale. This year, the Women 20 (W20) Summit held in Mahabalipuram in the Tamil Nadu region of India took centre stage, and among the esteemed presenters was the HSRC’s Prof. Narnia Bohler-Muller.

For those unfamiliar, the G20 is an influential platform that brings together leaders from the world’s major economies. Within this framework, the W20 plays a pivotal role, advocating for gender considerations to be at the forefront of discussions and translated into actionable policies and commitments. With a mandate to influence the G20 agenda and promote gender-sensitive approaches, the W20 tackles a range of pressing global challenges. Under the umbrella of the G20, the W20 identified five key priorities under India’s leadership: Women’s Entrepreneurship, Grassroot Women’s Leadership, Bridging the Gender Digital Divide, Education & Skills Development, and Climate Change.

Vast, diverse network of women leadership

These focal areas serve as the driving force behind the W20’s initiatives, propelling meaningful change and fostering opportunities for women across the globe. The W20 is a transnational network comprising delegates from non-government women’s organizations, civil society, female entrepreneurs, businesses, and think tanks. This vast network extends its reach across G20 member states, ensuring a diverse and inclusive representation of voices and perspectives. W20 India assumed the presidency from W20 Indonesia in December 2022, marking a new era of leadership. The W20 India Summit unfolded with great anticipation on the 15th and 16th of June 2023. The summit’s theme, “Women-Led Development: Transform, Thrive, and Transcend,” set the stage for inspiring discussions and critical dialogues on women’s empowerment.

So, what were the key highlights of this impactful event? The summit delved into breaking the invisible barriers and biases that impede women from reaching higher positions and leadership roles in various fields. It showcased government initiatives such as Self-Help Groups (SHGs), the PM Mudra Scheme, and the GeM portal, which empower women with access to markets and finance.

Progress and resilience despite persistent inequalities

Gender disparities in economic participation was highlighted, as the summit shed light on the inequalities women face in accessing economic opportunities, including financial resources, markets, and trade networks. Participants engaged in conversations surrounding systemic barriers such as limited access to credit, property rights, and discriminatory practices that hinder women’s economic empowerment. Amidst the serious discussions, the W20 Summit also celebrated the strength, resilience, and progress made in women’s empowerment. It provided a platform for acknowledging the remarkable achievements of women across various sectors and emphasised the need for continued support and collaboration to further advance gender equity globally.

Prof Narnia Bohler-Muller’s presence and contribution as a member of the W20 India Communique drafting group along with representations from India, EU, USA and South Korea leading up to the W20 Summit exemplified the commitment and expertise necessary to drive meaningful change. A copy of the 2023 Communique can be found here. Her insights and perspectives undoubtedly left a lasting impact, inspiring attendees to continue championing the cause of women’s empowerment in their respective spheres.

As the curtains closed on the W20 Summit, it left behind a trail of inspiration, hope, and renewed dedication to creating a world where women can thrive and transcend barriers. The summit served as a powerful reminder of the collective strength and unwavering resolve required to build a more inclusive and equitable society for all. Brazil will lead the G20 and its engagement groups including W20 in 2024, and then South Africa takes over leadership in 2025. There is much work to do before then to ensure that South Africa makes its mark during the G20 Presidency and builds on the valuable inputs of Italy, Indonesia and India.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)