Women's Empowerment in Developing CountriesThe fight against global poverty starts by investing in women.

Under the Millennium Development Goals, the world has made progress toward gender equality and women’s empowerment through equal access to primary education. However, discrimination against women still happens in every part of the world.

Current statistics show only 24 percent of women sit in national parliaments internationally. Only 13 percent of women are agricultural landholders, and over 19 percent of women from ages 15 to 49 have experienced physical and sexual violence. If this is not enough reason to treat women as equals in developing nations, consider that women make up a disproportionate 70 percent of the world’s poor.

Interventions by the United Nations, World Bank and USAID are pushing women’s empowerment projects. However, more can be done. The health and education levels of women and girls in developing countries continue to trail behind men and boys due to a lack of investment.

Economic Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment in Developing Countries

One of the most important ways to promote peace and stability is to provide economic opportunities to empower women. Through economic partnerships between public and private sectors that enable women to be part of a nation’s growing economy, research has shown a ripple effect against poverty that will extend across families and societies.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Rwanda’s pro-women empowerment reforms after the 1994 genocide have contributed immensely to the country’s recent economic success. Between 2000 and 2015 average income in Rwanda more than doubled, outpacing the average development of sub-Saharan Africa. These reforms require a 30 percent quota for women in decision-making positions, including 24 out of 80 seats reserved for women in the Lower House of Parliament. Rwanda’s women parliament members are also focused on ensuring that their girls are being educated so that they are able to lead economically.

Educational Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment in Developing Countries

Empowerment aims to move persons from oppressed powerlessness to positions of power. Education is a vital component in empowering women in developing countries. Through the provision of confidence, knowledge and skills, women can rebuild impoverished communities. Studies by the World Bank have shown that across 18 of 20 countries with the highest levels of child marriage, girls have no access to education.

Educating adolescent girls about their rights has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in developing countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

In Indonesia, the International Center for Research in Women has worked on making public spaces safer for women by creating women empowerment programs. The programs advocate for safer spaces and a workplace integrated with men and boys.

In Sri Lanka, the World Bank had been raising awareness to reduce the stigma of HIV and AIDS. Because of this, women can obtain the help that they need and decrease infant mortality associated with early child marriage.

Technological Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment

Worldwide, 200 million more men have internet access than women. Women are also 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone, a key resource in developing countries where phones provide security, mobile health care and facilitate money transfers.

Technology has great potential in closing the gender gap and empowering women in developing countries. Educating girls in STEM and IT will help women and girls pursue opportunities in these fields. For instance, in Egypt, women have developed an application called HarrassMap. The application maps out areas of high sexual assault and allows women to feel secure within their communities.

Poverty Alleviation through Women Empowerment

By empowering women to participate in growth opportunities, developing countries will accelerate their economic and social development. Working women invest 90 percent of their earnings back to their families, leading to greater health and education for their children. This, in turn, creates a cycle that sustainably alleviates poverty.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

How Women are Supporting Women
The world will never be the same after the surge of the #MeToo movement. The power of united women is a force to be reckoned with, and this online, female-instigated movement brought forth powerful impacts to the status of affairs, the society and the world at large.

In the light of recent events, the Borgen Project went a step further to find out how women are supporting women around the world. More importantly, how women-led-organizations are strengthening other women around the world to fight against poverty and hunger. In this research, two organizations stood out: Mama Cash and Foundation for Women.

Mama Cash

Mama Cash is an Amsterdam-based non-profit organization that provides financial support to women-led organizations in developing nations. Started in 1983 by a group of five like-minded feminist women around a kitchen table, the organization recently received around $5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Foundation for Women

Foundation for Women (FFW) is another great example of how women are supporting women. This group is a microfinancing organization founded in 1997 by philanthropist Deborah Lindholm. Based in San Diego, it enables individual women to achieve financial independence by providing microloans ranging from $250 to $1000.

Whom the Organizations Support

FFW’s nurtures women entrepreneurs in India and Sub Saharan African countries like Zambia, Niger and Liberia, and provide the women in these locations much-needed capital without requiring security money deposits or collateral. In fact, an applicant only needs:

  • An authorized proof of residence
  • A business idea

Mama Cash addresses the cause women empowerment through “movement building.” Movement building provides grants to indigenous women-led organizations that work at the grass-root level in India, Sri Lanka, Peru, Serbia and many others, that then work with local communities to empower its women.

The Funding Process

To understand precisely how women are supporting women, one must pay attention to the funding process. FFW sources fund directly from donors online to sponsor a woman entrepreneur in an impoverished country.

However, Mama Cash has a step-by-step process to select a grantee. The organization accepts applications only once a year during a “grant window,” wherein the company interacts with all stakeholders (founders, advisors, end beneficiaries) before sanctioning a grant. Even after the grant is decided upon, the members continue to provide knowledge and technical assistance to all involved.

Both Mama Cash and FFW strive to achieve a common goal of empowering women to earn their livelihood, attain economic security and gain equal property and human rights. These admirable efforts are uniting women across the globe, and all nations wait with bated breath to see what these empowered females accomplish next.

– Himja Sethi

Photo: Flickr