Once I shared the news that I am going to work for a women empowerment project in Uganda after deciding to leave my corporate job, most where surprised about the latter, not so much about the project I chose. The overall reaction basically boiled down to; she is a female herself, leads a female exclusive team and is an ambitious career woman advocating female equality in the workplace. I can share however that this is not my reasoning behind my volunteer selection. Below I will dive deeper to reveal what did.
Many poverty related posters have a face of a woman. Not surprising considering 70% of the World’s poorest inhabitants are female. After reading many research papers and articles, I realised that women in less developed countries are suffering a lot and their empowerment is one of the key ways to fight the poverty.
Women are simply DISADVANTAGED
Gender inequality is a hot topic in Western countries. We have achieved great progress in the last century, seeing way more women in senior business roles and politics. I know we are not there yet and there is lots of work to be done, but when I read about women in developing countries, I get reminded how everything is relative.
Women in Africa contribute to 70% of the overall food production and even 50% of them are employed into farms. What is even more shocking that many countries in Asia and Africa have laws in place which limit women to own land and other types of property. Only 20% of world’s land is owned by women and their plots are usually poorer quality. In other words, you might be working your whole life for your husband’s farm and even he has left the family, he still comes back to collect the money you earn from harvesting the land. There are plenty of such stories shared. Research shows that women have less cash than men and cannot fully participate in decision making how the money is spent.
It seems like women are simply disadvantaged from the birth due to their gender. 70% of the modern-slaves are women which means that they are forced into labour, marriages or sexual exploitation. Teenage girls represent the largest group who are exploited in the commercial sex industry. This puts them under extreme risk of diseases such as HIV. More than half HIV infected people worldwide are indeed women. On top of that, every year three million women die due to gender-based violence which accounts for more than traffic accidents and malaria combined.
The gender gap is also represented in education. According to World Bank studies, in Sub-Saharan Africa, boys are 1.55 times more likely to complete secondary education. Women account for 65% of total 781 million illiterate adults worldwide.
It’s evident that it’s not easy to be a woman, especially in less developed countries. Despite all these shocking facts, many women stay strong and continue to work hard for their families.
Women are multipliers! They reinvest
According to Christopher Hitchens, we are the first generation to understand that the cure to poverty is via empowered and employed women. They reinvest into their households up to 90% of their income, compared to 30% by men. Professor’s Emmanuela Gakidou’s research shows that every additional year of education for mothers reduces child mortality by nearly 10%. This means that we could prevent 5 million children death by providing education to mothers from 1970 to 1990.
Many women realize that they might not be able to leave the poverty for themselves at this point, but if they invest in their childrens’ education, the next generation will have a better life. This suggests that women have a long-term thinking mindset, thus investing into their employment and empowerment is not only a smart choice, but also economic. Neven Mimica said “If you educate a woman, you educate a whole generation”.
“If you educate a woman, you educate a whole generation”Neven Mimica
We need to stop thinking of women as victims and start recognizing them as true change agents for their family, communities and countries.
Let me finish with a question. Tell me a name of a woman who has initiated a genocide. I sense silence… You know what I mean. It’s simply so logical to empower women and I am excited to contribute, starting with volunteering in Uganda.