Equality and empowerment of women in the home and in the workplace is the subject of ongoing national and international conversations. Hundreds of NGOs and companies located around the world focus on providing women with opportunities that can help them overcome obstacles and help them achieve their goals. Inequality and sexism not only hurts women but potentially the entire workforce as this inequality hurts economic flow. By not having the same opportunities, roles, or any jobs for women we are effectively cutting out half the potential workforce. Women who are not able to start their own businesses because of ill opportunities provided to them are not able to provide economic output in their community are not able to provide for their families.
Traditional patriarchal societies often hold certain cultural values and laws that result in marginalization. Further many rural and tribal patriarchal societies often do not have the structure or the governance that would protect women in the workforce. There are cultures and individuals across the world that hold limited views on what women are capable of, and where exactly they belong in the workforce.
Micro-loans have been critical in helping increase economic opportunities for women, especially in rural areas. Micro-loans allow small businesses in these rural areas access to traditional banking services that they would not have otherwise. Increasing numbers of women own small businesses in developing countries especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. In last week’s blog post I discussed micro-loan organizations such as KIVA more in depth. These organizations provide loans to small businesses to help men and women in these communities build their businesses, support their family and community. Mechanisms such as those that these micro-loan organizations provide help individuals and communities break out of the poverty trap.
To improve the situation for women around the world and specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa there are a couple of potential solutions that can be employed. The bettering of economic conditions and opportunities for women and reform in places that allow legal discrimination where women do not hold much political clout are changes instrumental in helping empower women in the workplace. Making education accessible and available to women is an easy step to empowerment. Many young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are kept out of the classroom when they are menstruating. Keeping girls out of school every time they menstruate can add up and set girls back.While it does not stop menstruation, menstrual cups a provide cheap, hygienic solution to keeping girls in many Sub-Saharan African countries in schools (Huffington Post).
Women living in Uganda are three times more likely than their husbands, sons, or brothers to run a business. 35% of Uganda’s parliament is made of women as of 2012. As of 2011 76% of women were in the labor force in Uganda. On the Global Gender Gap Index Uganda ranked 46th out of 136 and 110th on the Gender Inequality Index. Despite the large social and economic responsibilities Ugandan women have held in many traditional Ugandan societies, there is still large amount of inequality and strict gender roles that exist for women in Uganda today (Fortune).
Part of the reason women are more likely to own businesses than the men in their lives in Uganda is because of the prevalence of micro-loan organizations. Outreach Uganda is one of the many organizations that works in Uganda using Micro-credit loans. The businesses that Outreach Uganda helps finance are often centered around handmade goods and jewelry and many are sold at fair trade venues in the United States. These loans do come with some stipulations and recipients can only receive loans after completing “necessary paperwork and meeting stringent requirements” (Outreach Uganda).