Women’s rights around the world are important indicators for understanding global well-being and equality. Despite many successes in empowering women in recent decades, numerous problems remain. This includes continuing gender discrimination and lower pay, even when laws dictate such practices are illegal (Africare). As education has improved the livelihoods of many African women, both socially and economically, they still lack access to many opportunities. By increasing wages for women and participation in local businesses, some policies address the gaps that still exist.
“Despite the crucial investments women make in their families and the contributions they make to their communities, Sub-Saharan women constitute only 15% of the region’s landholders, and they face disproportionate challenges ranging from sexual exploitation to illiteracy and disease” –Africare
That is not to say there hasn’t been progress:
- Poor women are gaining greater access to savings and credit mechanisms worldwide, due to microcredit.
- There is a dwindling number of countries that do not allow women to vote including Bhutan, Lebanon, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia
- Women are gaining more positions in parliament throughout Africa. In many cases African countries have more women in parliament than some western ones.
- An almost universal ratification of the women’s rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
(source: Global Issues)
Unfortunately, innovative policies must be implemented to create a more sustainable gender equality, including leadership training and microfinancing opportunities as these women strive for personal development. Vocational training is only the beginning, for it takes more than basic literacy to transform a community (Global Issues). Women must have access to business management training and supervisory roles.
In 2008, Africare began the Initiative for the Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs Project (IEEWEP) with funding by ExxonMobil. By providing training for better agricultural practices and new agro-processing centers, the IEEWEP increased women’s income and participation in local businesses in Southern Chad.
IIn the past three years more than 1,000 women have worked through a graduated business development project, which has diversified their income sources and increased their annual income by approximately 70%. To support women’s empowerment projects, go to www.africare.org
- Women work more than men, but are paid less.
- In many places women are still not allowed to own property or inherit land
- Social exclusion, “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking, restricted mobility and early marriage among others, deny the right to health to women and girls and increase illness and death throughout the life-course.
- In some patriarchal societies, religion or tradition can be used as a barrier for equal rights
(source: Global Issues)
Women, Work, and the Economy highlights the ways that women can affect the economy in a positive way:
- There’s evidence that when women are able to develop their full labor market
potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains.
- There are better opportunities for women to earn and control income could contribute to broader economic development in developing economies
- Having equal access to inputs would raise the productivity of female-owned companies.
- The employment of women on an equal basis would allow companies to make better use of the available talent pool, with potential growth implications