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The Issue: Women’s Economic Empowerment
Women have the potential to change their own economic status, as well as that of the communities and countries in which they live. Yet more often than not, women’s economic contributions go unrecognized, their work undervalued and their promise unnourished.
Unequal opportunties between women and men continue to hamper women’s ability to lift themselves from poverty and gain more options to improve their lives. Research shows that inequalities persist in the way paid and unpaid work is divided between women and men; in the fact that women remain the sole caregivers at home, and in their limited access to resources. What's more, these imbalances slow economic growth.
Women’s economic empowerment – that is, their capacity to bring about economic change for themselves – is increasingly viewed as the most important contributing factor to achieving equality between women and men. But economically strengthening women – who are half the world’s workforce – is not only a means by which to spur economic growth, but also a matter of advancing women's human rights. When governments, businesses and communities invest in women, and when they work to eliminate inequalities, developing countries are less likely to be plagued by poverty. Entire nations can also better their chance of becoming stronger players in the global marketplace.
Consider some of the positive outcomes of women’s economic empowerment:
- Where women's participation in the labor force grew fastest, the economy experienced the largest reduction in poverty rates.
- When women farmers can access the resources they need, their production increases, making it less likely that their families are hungry and malnourished.
- When women own property and earn money from it, they may have more bargaining power at home. This in turn can help reduce their vulnerability to domestic violence and HIV infection.
- When women have access to time-saving technologies – such as a foot-pedaled water pump or a motorized scooter – economic benefits can follow. ICRW research has found that technology helps women increase their productivity as well as launch income-generating pursuits and entrepreneurial ventures. Those kind of outcomes empower women to become stronger leaders and to more effectively contribute financially to their families, communities and countries.
The bottom line? Investing in women helps speed up the development of local economies and create more equitable societies.
Economic development efforts to combat poverty can only succeed if women are part of the solution. Doing so yields a double dividend: When women are economically empowered, they raise healthier, better educated families. Their countries are more economically prosperous because of it, too.
Since our founding more than 30 years ago, ICRW's work has expanded understanding of women's economic contributions as well as the hurdles that prevent them from being successful. Our efforts focus on how gender affects economic development efforts related to assets and property rights as well as employment, enterprise development and financial services.
We strive to increase women's ownership, use and control of assets and property. We want to empower women as economic agents and better their ability to access markets on competitive and equitable terms. And with our partners, ICRW aims to integrate gender perspectives into program and institution activities. We believe such an approach improves the likelihood that efforts to strengthen women economically are successful.