Carlotta sitting with her back to the camera with a group of women while reporting in the field

Why we need to learn more from women and girls

This year, we’re so proud to introduce the new Women’s Solutions Reporting Award in partnership with European Investment Bank. In this piece, Secretary General of EIB, Marjut Falkstedt, explains why an award of this kind is important. 


The world needs to learn more from women and girls. 

Fighting climate change is the make-or-break job of this decade. And the pandemic is one of the greatest troubles facing humanity today. In both these challenges, women are much more likely to experience negative consequences than men. Improving conditions for women is one of the best ways we can turn around the climate crisis and end COVID-19.

When I was a young girl in Karjalohja, in southern Finland, my parents never treated me differently from my brothers. Whether we were learning to hunt rabbits, catch fish in an ice-covered lake or change a car tyre, my parents taught me the same as my brothers. As a consequence, I grew up expecting to have the same opportunities as men.

But many women around the world grow up much differently. As the first female secretary general of the European Investment Bank, I am trying to help women everywhere get equal treatment, receive a good education and get good jobs. 

Life is especially hard for women in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. From an early age, many girls and women in these regions have a tough daily routine: wake up early, go to work in the agriculture or market sectors, walk long distances to get water or firewood, return home to cook, clean and care for children. Often, the sons are the ones who go to school or learn a trade. Many of these women and girls have learned to cope with difficulties and have lessons to share. We can accomplish a lot by listening to their stories and taking action.

I am pleased to sit on a global panel of professionals that will choose the winners of One World Media Women’s Solutions Reporting Award in 2022, because it is important to recognise these stories. This award will highlight successful initiatives by women or for women that address issues such as climate change, the environment, education or health care. 

Today, women earn nearly 25% less than men. Nearly a billion women can’t get loans to start a business and they can’t open a bank account to save money. Advancing women’s equality in banking and the workplace could add as much as $28 trillion to the global economy by 2025. 

To help women get financial support, we designed an EIB Group Strategy and action plan on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. We also signed the Finance in Common’s global summit statement on gender equity in the financial system, and we joined many other financial institutions in a joint statement on preventing the exploitation of women. We are part of the 2X Challenge and adopted the 2X Challenge criteria that are setting global standards for empowering women through investment. 

Two years ago, we launched the SheInvest initiative to mobilise €1 billion in investments that help women get loans and run businesses across Africa. In 2021, we doubled our goal for this initiative to €2 billion. We do many other projects, such as a $24.6 million investment to build a large fund for small businesses that support women in Africa.

You don’t have to learn how to hunt animals or repair a car like I did growing up, but every euro lent to a woman or every helping hand extended to help a girl go to school has huge benefits for families, communities – even the entire economy.

Let’s make sure we keep fighting for everyone.

Let’s make sure we keep listening to the stories of women and girls.

Let’s make sure we keep learning from them.


Marjut Falkstedt is the Secretary General of the European Investment Bank