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Women’s empowerment in IndiaApproximately 270 million Indian people live in poverty, the highest proportion of them women and children. Despite centuries of oppression and social exclusion, women’s empowerment in India is the key to success in alleviating rural poverty throughout the nation. Studies have shown that the poorer the family, the more they rely on the women of their families for survival.

Women in the Workforce

Historically, Indian women have been tasked with collecting clean drinking water, fetching wood for cooking and ensuring other day-to-day tasks to keep their households running smoothly. A cultural shift has recently allowed more women to enter the workforce.

Indian women are proving to be absolutely essential for the future success of India’s growing economy. Many families depend on women’s earnings to keep them afloat and women have started turning to the agricultural sector for employment. Agriculture employs over 80 percent of India’s economically active women. As a result of more women turning to agriculture for work, the country’s agricultural wages have risen and the gap between male and female agricultural wage rates has shrunk.

The Creation of Self-Help Groups

Women’s empowerment in India has been a focus for the Indian government for a number of years. Across the country, self-help groups (SHGs) focused on empowering women have been introduced in rural communities. These groups are usually comprised of 10 to 20 local women from the targeted area. The goals of SHGs are specific to the community it serves, but generally are implemented with a focus toward training members in income-generating activities.

Success Stories of Women’s empowerment in India

In 1998, a small village in India’s north-eastern Jharkhand state was crippled with poverty. The village of Teliya was ridden with severe food insecurity and very little money. Today, Teliya is a thriving village producing year-round cash crops and selling other products to national markets. This transformation began with an SHG.

Teliya’s SHG was started by PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action), an India-based non-governmental organization. Funded by a New York-based social justice program, the Ford Foundation, PRADAN has focused on empowering India’s poor and has worked collaboratively with impoverished villages for the past 30 years.

The SHG implemented in Teliya encouraged women to save what money they could to start a community of resource sharing and investment making. Women in the area started contributing what little money they had over the course of a few months. After gaining new confidence, women in Teliya quickly became representatives for their community, unafraid to speak out for the rights of themselves and their families. Women’s empowerment in India has thus proven to be a success.

Teliya’s success story is similar to other SHGs. Most SHGs start out with a small number of women pooling their money to create savings for their community and to provide group loans to their other community members. PRADAN works as an outside supporter, giving the community or village the necessary tools to work from the ground up. The organization is currently working with villages in eight different states across India.

With the success of each SHG and organizations devoted to women’s empowerment in India, the number of people living in poverty steadily decreases. Continued progress toward gender equality will only serve to further improve the nation’s economic and social states.

– Sonja Flancher

Photo: Flickr

women’s empowerment in MacedoniaSince Macedonia’s independence, equal opportunity for both men and women has been at the forefront of the government agenda. In 2013, the Macedonian Women’s Rights Center organized an event, “Woman Has the Power,” to address economic discrimination and violence against women, ultimately trying to boost women’s empowerment in Macedonia. The event criticized the current economic injustices and financial insecurities that women face.

These insecurities stem out of the traditional role that men play in the Macedonian society. Women still cannot inherit property, which hinders the ability to access bank loans for businesses and entrepreneurship advances. “Woman Has the Power” introduced participants to U.N. agencies and E.U. mission representatives. In the case of successful women, this event enabled them to reach out to other women to give guidance and help.

In 2011, successful actress and movie producer Labina Mitevska, through Women Unlimited Macedonia, advocated against drug addiction, violence, corruption and prostitution in regards to women. Women Unlimited Macedonia was a platform created with the help of The Art of Living Macedonia for women to network, to discuss and gain support and to practice yoga and meditation. These efforts in individual organizations fueled government involvement and initiatives.

Implementation to create equal rights for both men and women continued in the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s commitment to end discrimination and violence against women. The National Strategy for Prevention and Protection against Domestic Violence, adopted by the government, focuses on domestic violence and placement of women in the social and economic sphere of society.

The National Strategy’s aim is to strengthen the capacities for courts to handle cases regarding violence against women, establish services for victims of such crimes and educate parents and children on prevention. These efforts were signed into the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2013-2020, in accordance with Step It Up for Gender Equality. The movement did not stop there to enhance women’s empowerment in Macedonia.

The International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) works to promote women for candidacy for Parliament and local government positions. Fighting violence against women who attempt candidacy, both the IFES and the Club of Women promote the presence of women in the government. One of the significant success efforts of the Club of Women was a mandatory quota of no less than 30 percent of candidates be women running for Parliament and municipal councils.

Successes such as these provide hope for women in Macedonia. Progress is not perfect and women are still the less represented gender, but through organizations’ efforts, there is potential for improving women’s empowerment in Macedonia.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr

Assessing Credit Access in MoroccoMorocco is a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. Its economy relies largely on vibrant services and agricultural sectors for growth, and after experiencing a severe drought in 2016, the latter sector has bounced back in 2017. The industrial sector, however, has yet to see significant investment or growth.

According to the Moroccan government’s own estimates, extreme poverty has been eradicated in recent years. The percentage of the population living below the national poverty line was around 4.8 percent in 2014.

One signal of a healthy economy is access to credit. Below are some of the current strategies for improving credit access in Morocco.

Agricultural Credit Access in Morocco: The “Meso-Credit”

As is the case in many countries, rural areas in Morocco have a tougher time gaining access to credit — oftentimes, their residents don’t even bother trying. Innovations for Poverty Action reports that 50 percent of the rural households surveyed indicated that they needed credit in the previous year but never actually requested it.

To meet the needs of the 40 percent of Moroccan farms that are midsized, the Group Crédit Agricole du Maroc offers an innovative “meso-credit” portfolio. Midsized farms are considered too small to take a traditional banking approach but too large for a microfinance approach. Meso-credits are generally loans given to agricultural small and medium enterprises (SMEs) consisting of less than €9,300, with good success and repayment rates.

When the midsized farms can access credit, they can survive, thrive, expand and hire, which ultimately will reduce rural poverty in the area.

The World Bank’s Contribution

In May 2017, the World Bank announced a $350 million program to fund financial intermediation reforms in Morocco.

The program has four main goals:

  1. Support new sources of financing for SMEs
  2. Tighten oversight of the banking sector,
  3. Encourage capital market development by increasing the range of investment tools and protecting Moroccan investors
  4. Invest in the civil service pension fund to keep it solvent

Low-income households are expected to benefit from these reforms, as are female entrepreneurs. The reforms allow women to gain access to more sources of financing and electronic payment systems, which remove social and economic barriers that previously stood in the way of women.

The Takeaway

Many projects are underway to help improve Moroccan investors’ access to credit in a responsible and growth-oriented way.

Hopefully, these efforts—and others like them—will improve credit access in Morocco, get development projects off the ground and lift even more Moroccans out of poverty.

– Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Global Communities Poverty in Ghana
A non-profit organization called Global Communities works to end poverty in Ghana with a 5-point plan in conjunction with USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy.

The non-profit organization works in more than 20 countries around the world, with Ghana being a focus of the recent programs. Global Communities, created about 60 years ago, works with the private sector, governments and local communities to provide the “means and ability to live and prosper with dignity,” something it ensures under its organization’s vision.

The Maryland-based organization paired with USAID in support of the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy to be implemented over the years 2014-2025. The program’s goal seeks to reduce chronic malnutrition by 20 percent over those 11 years. Global Communities has put forth these five goals in hopes of accelerating the fight against malnutrition in Ghana.

1. Provide more opportunities for economic growth through microfinance

Individuals who do not have access to the capital provided by large financial services corporations can gain access to funds through various microfunding institutions. These smaller companies allow a more intimate relationship between the lender and the borrower. Global Communities works through Boafo Microfinance Services in order to provide low-income Ghanaians with the money for new businesses, education and homes.

2. Build a more “resilient” Ghana by improving the nutrition in local diets

In order to reach this goal, Global Communities has partnered with the USAID/Ghana Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) program to “reduce poverty and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations.” The introduction of the sweet potato in local Ghanaian farms was a successful implementation of the partnership. Both USAID and Global Communities hope to educate communities on the importance of good nutrition instead of just providing temporary relief.

3. Create pathways for urban youth to become financially independent

Global Communities has joined the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative For Employment in opening up the construction sector to Ghana’s youth. In five of the biggest cities in Ghana, the initiative hopes to “reach more than 23,000 youth” by teaching them the skills for employment. Because Africa’s youth makes up a majority of the population, targeting this demographic is the most effective way to reducing poverty in Ghana.

4. Improve access to clean water and sanitation

Working with both the public and private sector, Global Communities is working to enhance the current water and sanitation infrastructure. With focus on “slum communities” in three cities, the non-profit seeks to optimize every individual’s condition while constructing water and sanitation services that can be sustainable. These efforts are paired with USAID’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene for the Urban Poor (WASH-UP) and USAID’s WASH for Health (W4H). An important part of the relief is affecting a change in behavior which can help create a poverty-free society that operates without relief.

5. Upgrade local neighborhoods and reinforce political and social institutions

After the basic needs of food, water and shelter are met, a society can begin to upgrade its political, economic and social conditions. Global Communities, with the Bill & Melinda Gates SCALE-UP program, echoes this idea as it reinforces educational and financial institutions for residents in the low-income communities of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi. The expansion of government services, such as female inclusivity and public transportation, in those regions is being implemented through the Our City, Our Say project.

Global Communities is just part of a larger non-profit coalition fighting against global poverty in Ghana. The process includes numerous programs with funding from various foreign governments, each generating results through their focus on different parts of the Ghanaian society. Readers can follow the various programs and outcomes on the Global Communities website.

Jacob Hess

Sources: Global Communities 1, Global Communities 2, USAID 1, USAID 2
Photo: Borgen Project