Developing nations need women’s empowerment
A simple truth has been denied across the globe for centuries — the importance of equality and most specifically, women’s empowerment. Developing nations need women’s empowerment because half measures of equality can’t guarantee complete progress.

Global Gender Inequality

Women make up half of the entire world population yet they also, sadly, represent 70 percent of the world’s poor. The world we live in, a world where women living in poverty face inequalities and injustices from birth until they die, has been built on unequal principals — a slow killing sequence of discrimination that any woman might suffer during her lifetime.

Women earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and half of what men regularly earn. This inequality is one of the main reasons women in developing nations live in poverty. In developing countries, women die each year as a result of gender-based violence. Gender discrimination creates blockades for women both physically and mentally, as they begin to believe they are worth less and thus cease believing they have a purpose in society other than to do what is told to them.

Women’s Empowerment in Developing Nations

Developing nations need women’s empowerment, especially for girls living in poverty, as it’s those closest to them who often work against their interests and create dysfunctional and harmful environments.

Can the world change? Yes, plain and simple. But only once women are no longer discriminated against for being the pillars of strength and growth that they are. The World Bank believes “putting resources into poor women’s hands while promoting gender equality in the household and in society results in large development payoffs.” It’s fundamental to nurture young girls and women in self-confidence; empower them — especially those living in poverty; to make informed choices about their lives; and to understand their importance in their communities.

The empowerment of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health statuses is a highly important endeavor. In fact, it’s essential for sustainable development. In reproductive standards, both men and women are responsible for half of the creation of life, so it stands to reason that equality among all is essential to the continued growth and cultivation of life as a whole.

In most of the world, women receive less formal education than men, and women’s knowledge and abilities often go unrecognized. Relations that impede women’s attainment of healthy, fulfilled lives operate in multiple levels of society, from personal to highly public. True change requires policy and program actions that improve women’s access to secure livelihoods. Developing nations need women’s empowerment in order to overcome any “legal” impediments to their public life and raise social awareness through effective education and mass communication programs.

Bringing Equality

Here are key ways that countries, developed or undeveloped, help bring women’s empowerment:

  • Establishing mechanisms for women’s equal participation and equitable representation at all levels of the political process, society and community public life; enabling women to articulate their concerns and needs
  • Promoting the fulfillment of women’s potential through education, skill development and employment; giving paramount importance to the elimination of poverty, illiteracy and ill health among women
  • Eliminating all practices that discriminate against women; assisting women to establish and realize their rights, including those that relate to reproductive and sexual health
  • Adopting appropriate measures to improve women’s ability to earn income beyond traditional occupations, achieve economic self-reliance, and ensure women’s equal access to the labor market and social security systems
  • Eliminating violence against women
  • Eliminating discriminatory practices by employers against women, such as those based on proof of contraceptive use or pregnancy status
  • Making it possible, through laws, regulations and other appropriate measures, for women to combine the roles of child-bearing, breastfeeding and child-rearing with participation in the workforce.

Partnerships for Change

Currently, the World Bank Group (WBG) aims to take action working alongside governments, companies and other partners to close remaining gaps in education and maternal health. Efforts are being put in place to enhance women’s economic opportunities by: helping to create better jobs, ensure ownership and control of assets like land and housing, gain access to finance, technology and insurance services, and increase all capacity and opportunity to act independently at home, in the community and in the various levels of governments.

The world needs women, and in more ways than numerous societies have allowed. Developing nations have always needed women’s empowerment for true growth and prosperity, but now it’s needed more than ever.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in BhutanHappiness and wellbeing have always been a part of the Bhutanese political psyche. The fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) into both international indexes and Bhutan’s policies to define an official development paradigm for the country. When the constitution went into effect in 2008, the kingdoms’ leaders were directed to consult the four pillars of Gross National Happiness: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of culture, and environmental conservation.

While Bhutan regularly ranks among the top happiest countries in all of Asia, happiness is not equally distributed among its residents: it is found that while 49 percent of men are happy, only one-third of women are happy.

In the past few decades, Bhutan has seen major socio-economic transformation and a rapidly growing per capita income. Yet despite progress in achieving gender equality in education and participation in the labor force, cultural restrictions have not allowed women to fully bridge the gap. The 2010 GNH survey findings have shown that the gender differences are greatest in negative emotions, work, leisure time, schooling, literacy, political participation, safety from human harm and wildlife damage, all to the disadvantage of Bhutanese women.

Due to matrilineal inheritance practiced in Bhutan, nearly 60 percent of rural women and about 45 percent of urban women have land and property titles registered in their name. However, these titles do not translate into economic advantages for these women. Land cannot be used as collateral for access to finance. Additionally, land-ownership makes it difficult for women to migrate and acquire better opportunities for work and acquire skills.

A report prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the National Commission for Women and Children recognized the need for closing the gender gap in happiness in Bhutan. The report maintains that a greater voice for women in the management of land and access to an effective secondary as well as higher education, along with training in practical skills can help address this gap. Most importantly though, underlying social norms about gender roles in households should be addressed. Men should offer a greater role in sharing housework and raising children. Additionally, basic literacy among women should be improved to encourage more accepting attitudes and achieve great participation within the community.

While Bhutan still must work toward closing the gender gap in happiness, it has continued to improve in recent years. The country has the potential to become a leading nation in regards to gender equality.

– Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr