Emma Watson
On March 8, 2016, Emma Watson turned the Empire State Building pink in honor of International Women’s Day. As a U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Watson helped launch the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality in 2014 and continues to keep the issue at the forefront of international politics.

In fact, Watson admitted in a February 2016 interview with feminist author bell hooks that she was taking a year off from acting to focus solely on her work with U.N. Women and the HeForShe movement.

The HeForShe movement affirms that gender equality is not just a women’s issue but an issue that affects all people. HeForShe recognizes men and boys as partners for women’s rights and provides a platform from which they can become agents of change towards the achievement of gender equality.

While some progress towards gender equality has been made over the last decade, major disparities still exist. The World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Report revealed that the global average annual earnings for women in 2015 just reached the average annual amount men were earning ten years go.

The Forum states that achieving equal pay will take 118 years if economic progress continues at its current pace.

Emma Watson has spoken around the globe on the issue of gender equality in order to involve hundreds-of-thousands of men in the movement.

In the first quarter of 2016 alone, she’s started an online feminist book club, organized HeForShe arts week in New York City, unveiled a new HeForShe website and released a 26-page report in Esquire Magazine on why gender equality is an issue that involves all of us. So far, HeForShe has been the subject of more than 2 billion conversations on social media.

One of the most notable initiatives of the movement Watson helped organize is IMPACT 10x10x10. IMPACT engages governments, corporations, and universities and has them make concrete commitments to gender equality. The three IMPACT groups are made up of ten heads of states, ten corporate executives, and ten university leaders.

The participating IMPACT Champions, all male, include the Prime Minister of Japan, the President of Rwanda, the CEO of Tupperware Brands, the COO of Twitter, and the President of the University of Sao Paulo Brazil.

These individuals are committed to making gender equality an institutional priority and then sharing what they learn with other organizations so that their changes can be replicated.

Watson and the ten IMPACT corporate executives recently met at the 2016 UN World Economic Forum in Davos to unveil their Corporate Gender Parity Report. The report revealed that within the ten corporations, 71% of board members were male, 73% of senior leadership positions were male and 60% of the overall global workforce were male.

The report also revealed the impact commitments the corporations plan on implementing to achieve gender parity. They include:

  • Embedding gender equality in company policies through programs like mandatory bias training and male-focused gender curricula to educate and empower men as gender equality advocates;
  • Increasing the percentage of women in senior leadership positions through mentoring opportunities;
  • Creating thousands of HeForShe male champions within each company;
  • Reaching complete gender parity in undergraduate intake programs to build the pipeline of future female leaders;
  • During the presentation of the report, Watson stated that full female participation in the workforce would bring a $28 trillion boost to the global economy.

In a recent interview at the inaugural HeForShe arts week, Watson was asked what’s next for gender equality and she stated, “we really want to crowdsource as many different strategies from all over the world so that we can try and build a really comprehensive guide to how we can make a tangible difference and make it happen.”

HeForShe is off to an impressive start in 2016 and continues to power towards its goal of gender equality by 2030.

Brian Zepka

Sources: HeForShe 1, HeForShe 2, HeForShe 3, Paper Mag, World Economic Forum, HeForShe Impact 10x10x10 2015 Corporate Parity Report, HeForShe YouTube Channel
Photo: Flickr


Weaving Businesses
Women in developing countries are getting a chance to learn skills such as traditional weaving, with the hope that they can eventually launch their own businesses.

According to F.Report, “The disadvantaged position of women, due to higher poverty incidence and unequal power relationships with men and the wider community, has been a source of debate over the past several decades.”

In the majority of developing countries, women contribute the most to the agricultural sector. Unfortunately, women’s roles are largely unrecognized by the private sector, with many women expected to carry out unpaid work.

Yet by launching their own weaving businesses, women can not only build up their confidence but they can also join the private sector as well. The private sector can be a partner in efforts to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, according to the U.N.

The weaving industry is, therefore, expanding in many poor countries, targeting women from marginalized communities in particular. “Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life of women, men families, and communities,” according to U.N. Women.

Sally Holkar, founder of Women Weave, said that this occupation not only provides financial security to women but can also lift them and their families out of poverty, which benefits the community at large.

F. Report states that “although empowerment can not be given to somebody by someone else, the process of empowerment can be facilitated by others through programs like the weaving industry.”

A woman needs to have access to social resources and economic opportunities to make strategic decisions in her life. In this case, the weaving businesses are largely responsible for this empowerment.

Isabella Rölz

Sources: WomenWeave, Female Report, UN Women, UN Web TV
Photo: WEAVE

supporting education for girls in developing countriesMichelle Obama recently spoke on the importance of education for girls in developing countries at the 2015 World Innovation Summit for Education in Qatar.

According to EFA Global Monitoring Report, there are 66 million girls out of school globally. There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school.

Michelle Obama is traveling through the Middle East discussing the importance of education for girls in developing countries in order to promote “Let Girls Learn,” her girls’ education initiative. She encouraged men in developing countries to support the cause of educating girls in order to improve their societies.


Health Benefits of Supporting Education for Girls in Developing Countries


Education is one of the most significant ways that women can empower themselves, and educating women provides many benefits to developing countries.

Girls with eight years of education are four times less likely to be married as children. Women who are educated marry later and, therefore, have fewer children. Multiple studies show that an extra year of schooling for girls reduces fertility rate by five to 10 percent.

The children of an educated woman are more likely to survive. In addition, a child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five.

Educated women are better at understanding and managing health issues, which reduces infant and maternal mortality.


Economic Benefits of Supporting Education for Girls in Developing Countries


Educating women also benefits the economy. According to chief Japan strategist and co-head of Asia Economics, “educated women contribute to the quality, size and productivity of the workforce. They can get better paying jobs, allowing them to provide daily necessities, health care and education to support their families.”

A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20 percent more as an adult.

Bloomberg Business estimates a “growth premium” that would raise gross domestic product growth by 0.2 percent per year for countries such as Vietnam, Nigeria and Pakistan that put greater investments in female education. Narrowing the gender gap could raise income per capita 20 percent higher than what is projected by 2030.

According to The World Bank, if India enrolled one percent more girls in secondary school, its gross domestic product would rise by $5.5 billion.

Educating girls provides many significant benefits to developing countries and can help lift areas out of poverty. Education for girls will continue to improve conditions in developing countries across the globe.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Bloomberg Business, CNN, Girl Rising, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

In Cameroon, cultural beliefs have created a perception that farming is for subsistence, not profit- many believe that business farming is not honorable for this reason. AgricInspiration wants to change this notion.

Cameroon is home to cheap, fertile farmland. Observing the abundance of female laborers and the equally plentiful farmland, AgricInspiration believes much opportunity exists for women to support themselves.

Sustainable, organic farming is not just better for the environment. In Cameroon, the organization AgricInspiration plans to provide single mothers with training on sustainable, organic farming techniques.

AgricInspiration will also teach these mothers how to sell their products at local produce markets so they can turn a profit in addition to feeding their families.

How? Wise Nzikie, the founder of the project, plans to recruit local agricultural experts near the town of Bamenda, Cameroon, to assist in training women in nearby rural localities.

The World Bank finds that unemployment causes many social problems among Cameroonians, especially for women. AgricInspiration aims to support disadvantaged women who can not otherwise find work, such as school dropouts, persons with HIV/AIDS and other displaced women.

A key component of AgricInspiration’s project emphasizes mass communication. The organization aims to reach younger women through tools such as social media, television programs and radio to educate and inspire them to embrace agribusiness.

A crowdfunding website, the 1% Club, created a profile for AgricInspiration in the beginning of 2015. Within 25 days, their goal of €15,000 was reached. Nzikie responded on their website, “A million thanks to all who supported us in one way or the other.”

In September, the project also became a beneficiary of The Pollination Project, a social change organization that provides seed grants of $1,000 to people fighting for change and projects that promote a better world for humanity.

The Pollination Project makes one grant every day, beginning in 2013. They focus on discovering grassroots movements that will not likely qualify for other grants or funding from other foundations or institutions.

Bailey Wenzler

Sources: One Percent Club, Huffington Post, The Pollination Project, World Bank
Photo: Pixabay

The Little Market is making a big difference. A fair trade project based in Los Angeles, the online company works with artisans around the world, making handcrafted goods available to all and supplying a living wage to the artisans that create them.

Co-founded by fashion designer Lauren Conrad and Human Rights Watch member Hannah Skvarla in 2013, the Little Market “seeks to empower women artisans to rise above poverty and support their families”. The company is committed to building self-sufficient, economically independent women in impoverished countries around the world.

The Little Market sells a variety of handmade goods, from home décor and kitchen necessities to backpacks and bracelets. Conrad and Skvarla visit local markets in countries such as Kenya, Bolivia, India and Peru to gain inspiration, insight and appreciation for the talent, time and treasures provided by the artisans.

In order to benefit the artisans and themselves, the company searches for items with the potential to succeed in the U.S. market.

This month, The Little Market began selling olive wood products from Le Souk Olivique, an olive wood studio in Tunisia. Founded in 2013, Le Souk provides finely crafted wooden kitchen tools, including basic utensils, salad bowls and cutting boards.

The Tunisian company treats its artisans very well, setting payment above minimum wage and providing healthcare and social security payments. Le Souk will soon receive Tunisia’s Fair Trade certification.

The beautifully handcrafted kitchen tools sell at The Little Market for $12 to $44, depending on the type and size of the object. They are all made with olive wood.

Making olive wood products, however, is an intricate and time-consuming process. The raw wood must initially dry outside for a year before cutting and sanding the pieces to create a wood product fit for a kitchen.

Conrad and Skvarla expressed excitement about carrying this new line of products, available now on the company website. The Little Market has served as a catalyst in the sale of handmade goods from around the world, including those of Le Souk. As website sales increase, the demand for more products also increases, resulting in a need for more employees and thus creating more jobs for more artisans around the world, lifting many out of poverty.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: LA Times, The Little Market 1, The Little Market 2
Photo: Style News

In 2009, Bill Gates visited Saudi Arabia and was asked how Saudi Arabia could attain its goal of becoming one of the top countries in the world. In response, Gates said, “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.” Women deserve equal rights and treatment, but for many men in cultures that have yet to embrace this fact, this reality may not be enough to change minds. Enter money—what are the monetary incentives to help women contribute to the well-being of their own countries?

Women across the world represent about 40% of the world’s workforce. This is a huge figure and exemplifies the need for allowing this 40% to gain proper education to increase human capital potential, besides the obvious rights to education that any young girl or boy should possess. A study found that each year of education of women correlated with a decrease in child mortality by 9.5%. That’s a heavy figure to consider; it should be criminal for a developing country not to invest in women. The International Monetary Fund estimates that if women were able to access the same resources for agriculture, food production could increase by 2.5 to 4%. If that wasn’t enough reason to begin to treat women as equals in developing nations, then consider the fact that women make up a disproportionate figure of 70% of the world’s poor.

Allowing women to have equal rights and treatment in developing countries has a variety of benefits. Less workplace discrimination means more women can work instead of being outsiders to the economy of a country. Increasing the career opportunities and general rights for women could also usher in more investment from developed countries who may find more cultural connection with the developing nation. Studies have also shown that women are better at spending money in ways that benefit children than men, but, currently, women are earning significantly less than men across the world.

By empowering women in developing nations, poverty rates could be slashed, businesses could be started, existing industries could be revitalized and greater human capital resources could be fully realized. Gates said it best, and with elegance. The question really just becomes: why waste half of the talent you have?

Martin Yim

Sources: New York Times, International Monetary Fund, The Guardian, United Nations
Photo: Water Encyclopedia

Creativity comes in many forms. For example, it can be when one combines fashion and justice to bring business to impoverished communities around the world — and that is exactly what Jessica Honegger did when she created Noonday Collection.

What started as a trunk show by a woman who wanted to raise money to adopt a son from Rwanda soon became more than a one-time fundraiser, It has become an innovative business model that allows women to use fashion to create jobs at living wages for artisans in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Since its launch in 2011, Noonday Collection has provided women in the U.S. the opportunity to earn an income through entrepreneurship while still alleviating global poverty, creating a mutual beneficiary relationship that strays from the charitable “handout.”

Using fashion and design to create economic opportunity for impoverished communities, women can become social entrepreneurs known as Noonday Collection Ambassadors.

As ambassadors, women use their fashion sense to change the world and collaborate with others to make an impact simply by shopping, styling, sharing and advocating.

Noonday Collection states it best on its website: “Your fashion sense can now restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans.”

Noonday Collection Ambassadors partner with artisans in developing countries by selling jewelry, winter scarves, headbands and other accessories through trunk shows and personalized e-commerce sites. Artisans earn a percentage of the sales commission.

By partnering with artisans in developing countries, ambassadors can empower others to create a marketplace for their goods in their own community while still being able to help those in poverty earn a sustainable business to support their families.

Noonday Collection pays for all its products up-front and even makes advanced payments to provide artisans the money flow they need to start a sustainable business.

The company also sends members of its team to train artisans on what practices are best to design for the U.S. market among other topics to help them understand their business.

In addition, Noonday Collection offers scholarship programs, emergency assistance and donate a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to help place orphans in a permanent home.

If you would like to take part in this growing movement that has supported more than 1,200 adoptive families through its entrepreneurial insight and fashionable taste, visit the Noonday Collection website to learn how to become a Noonday Collection Ambassador:

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Noonday Collection 1, Noonday Collection 2, Toms
Photo: Flickr

women in science
The role women play in the world’s technology and science movements has become increasingly prominent. Years ago, this field was primarily only led by men. Although education for women in general has improved in recent years, it still remains a problem around the globe.

A UNICEF study that researched the barriers to primary education revealed that 75 percent of children who are out of primary schools have mothers who did not receive any education, due in large part to poverty. In Asia, the Middle East and Africa, that number has risen to 80 percent of children who are out of primary school. This project reveals the importance of getting girls into education and supporting them in doing so.

In developing countries, women play an essential role in making change to communities. Mahatma Ghandi once said, “When a man is educated, an individual is educated; when a woman is educated, a family and a country are educated.” Historically, women have played a minor role in science-related fields, but many countries are making efforts to change that precedent.

Supporting women in science through funding, programs and scholarships is essential to building the next generation of women leaders and increasing science literacy in developing countries. Here are three nations creating increased opportunities for women in science, agriculture and technology:

1. South Sumatra (Indonesia):

Indonesia’s national program, Warintek Multipurpose Community Telecenters, focuses on promoting sustainable development through science and technology for women farmers located in South Sumatra. The program provides a variety of informational kiosks, available in both distance and in-person forms, for women to utilize regarding any farming needs of their local areas. In large part, the education aims to provide information on successful marketing and sustainable farming.

2. Burkina Faso:

Through the UNESCO Chair, Women, Science, and Development in Africa, the country is working to provide informal programs on health, water supplies, management and agriculture. University professors and students work in conjunction with women in communities, discussing topics and building relationships. The country has also connected with universities in other countries.

3. China:

The Women and Gender Development through the College of Rural Development at China Agricultural University is working to promote discussions on gender roles in agriculture and farming.

– Julia Thomas

Sources: Inter Academic Council, UNESCO, China Agricultural University, TWAS
Photo: Unesco

environmental protection
Women suffer the most when it comes to climate change and natural disasters, yet in many areas around the world, women do not have a large say in the policies surrounding environment or how finances are used towards environmental protection. In areas where it has been tested though, empowering women can lead to better preparedness for disasters and better governance of natural resources. Overall, gender equality can lead to better environmental governance.

Rachel Carson created the modern day environmental movement with her book Silent Spring. Today women following her footsteps around the world are essential in the protection of our environment.

In Nepal and India, when more than the minimum threshold of one-third women participated in forest committees, it resulted in forest regeneration and a decrease in illegal extraction of forest resources.

Another success story took place in Kenya and Ethiopia, where women took a leadership role managing the risks regarding the 2005-08 drought cycle. The women generated income by diversifying livelihoods and then saved using women’s savings and loan groups. By doing this, women were able to preserve resources, which then lead to better food security.

Women also play an important role in protecting the environment because they can have a strong impact on the amount of carbon emissions in our atmosphere.

Due to gender norms that exist regarding labor in the household, many of women’s day-to-day tasks have a direct impact on carbon emissions. This means that when a goal is set to reduce carbon emissions, it is up to women to make environmentally friendly decisions regarding cooking, farming and what they purchase for their families.

Women’s decisions regarding cooking fuel, cooking technology and which foods they choose to buy have an impact on the amount of carbon emission released. Women also often have a say in agricultural practices that have an impact because they can determine whether carbon is released or stored in agricultural soils and above ground biomass. In many areas, women are the ones making household purchasing decisions at markets. Because of this women directly impact the amount of carbon emitted through the production, distribution, use and disposal of goods.

From leadership roles to every day decisions, women are an important component in protecting the environment for now and for future generations.

– Kim Tierney 

Sources: World Bank, UN Women
Photo: Environment and Society

Countries around the world are joining efforts in a program called Scaling Up Nutrition to improve the way malnutrition is being treated. By using nutrition-specific interventions and nutrition-sensitive approaches, Scaling Up Nutrition is on the path to decreasing nutrition problems that have horrible effects on societies.

The program consists of governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers. Together, the program can provide all the necessary resources to decrease malnutrition globally.

Scaling Up Nutrition was founded on the principle that all people have the right to nutritious food. The program has a focus on improving women’s and maternal health. Studies show that proper nutrition is essential during the 1,000 days from the start of pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. Poor nutrition during this time frame can lead to stunted growth and impaired cognitive development. Scaling Up Nutrition aims to prevent these from happening by expanding the knowledge and resources for women during and after pregnancy.

Their nutrition-specific interventions include support for exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age, fortification of foods, micro-nutrient supplementation and treatment for severe malnutrition.

Malnutrition is not caused solely by the lack of access to proper food. Recognizing this, the program is also incorporating nutrition-sensitive approaches. These include things like agriculture, empowering women, clean water and sanitation, education and employment, health care and support for resilience.

By combining all these facets that go hand-in-hand with malnutrition, Scaling Up Nutrition is able to work as a united front to put the proper policies forward, implement effective programs and provide necessary resources for the improvement of malnutrition.

Malnutrition is a core problem that can have severe consequences on individuals, families and entire societies. Poor nutrition often coincides with poverty. By improving nutrition around the world, Scaling Up Nutrition is taking a large step toward eradicating poverty around the world.

— Hannah Cleveland 

Sources: Scaling Up Nutrition, UN
Photo: National Grocers