Economic independence & empowerment improves women’s lives
A major dimension of women’s inequality and dis-empowerment is their relative lack of access to, and ownership of, economic resources in their own right – be this land, property or money. A focus on women’s economic independence is essential if we are to make real progress towards achieving gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls.
Governments must recognise that the economic empowerment of women has a positive effect of GDP, thus boosting the wealth and wellbeing of nations as well as individual communities and households.
When women are empowered they gain a greater voice in household decision making, and research has shown that they promote and spend their own money on health, nutrition and their children’s education – daughters and sons. Other benefits to women’s economic empowerment are manifold. They have a greater say, for example, in issues around their own fertility, and are more ready to stand up to threats of violence.
For the empowerment of women to have lasting impacts there must be consciousness raising so that the social construction of gender, which subordinates women in the family, class, caste, religion, or society, can be changed.
WISE Development is able to offer significant expertise and experience to support international agencies, governments and NGOs to tackle the issue of economic empowerment for women.
Economic empowerment of women through employment
Women currently make up about three quarters of the world’s poor, yet they perform more than half of all economic activity in developing countries and represent an estimated 40 per cent of the global workforce. One billion young people will reach working age in the next decade, over half of these women. Providing them with the opportunity to gain employment at a decent wage is a global challenge.
Although more girls are going to school than ever before, societies are still failing to find them productive employment, so that investments in education in the early years will be wasted.
Female education is closely correlated to smaller family size, greater decision making responsibility and higher income. Even when the education status of women is higher than that of men, women face labour market discrimination when they seek employment. When they do find a job it is often lower paid and confined to unprotected and low skill jobs in the informal economy.
WISE Development supports international agencies, governments and NGOs to ensure that women and young girls gain the confidence to secure the jobs they deserve through a mixture of pragmatic interventions and support with policy interventions.
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Over the last forty years, two parallel socio-economic trends have emerged. First, in almost every country in the world there has been growth in both the size and the relative importance of the small business sector. Second, female suffrage, achieved in many countries within the twentieth century, has been followed by a large-scale expansion in the economic participation of women in the labour market. Reflecting greater participation within waged employment, women have also increased their share of self employment – although this remains at notably lower levels than that of their male counterparts.
The key ingredient to tackling the challenges to women’s enterprise development and entrepreneurship lies in understanding the context – the social and cultural norms and the different types of needs that women face depending on their situation and background. Major barriers to enterprise include access to childcare, access to credit, lack of business skills and access to information together with perceptual barriers of credibility in the market place. By providing enterprise education, together with insightful support to enable nascent businesses to grow, we can successfully release the potential of women’s enterprise and entrepreneurship.
WISE Development adopts partnership approaches to stimulating and enabling women to set up their own business, building on existing initiatives that have already proven their value in both policy and programme contexts – working both ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’.
Our approach to delivering enterprise support at both a strategic and operational level offers a consistent and sustainable route to self employment. By recognising that women are not a homogenous group but have multifaceted needs, we contribute towards successful business start ups and, critically, ongoing growth and often the internationalisation of early stage businesses. Our approach recognises that pace, place and space are key factors in modes of delivery, and sometimes involves working through intermediaries who can offer support in the vernacular to women for whom enterprise support has previously been inaccessible.
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Gender Equality Experts in Economic Empowerment
Fatimah Kelleher is an international women’s rights and social development consultant with fourteen years experience working with a variety of international, regional and national stakeholders in Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean.
Paola Pereznieto is an economist specializing in social policy and international development with over 13 years of relevant work experience. She has strong expertise in the management, design and implementation of qualitative and quantitative research projects in a range of developing countries.