Women receive only 1/10th of the world’s income and represent nearly 70% of impoverished individuals worldwide. Yet, women make up half of this world’s population, perform nearly 2/3rd of the hours worked around the world and produce at least half of the world’s food.
Note the inequality yet?
While closer to home, women face the daunting task of still trying to break into male-dominated fields and shed stereotypes about issues such as body image and their role in society, around the world women face discrimination, unequal treatment and stigmatism. These issues are even more prevalent in rural and poor communities. Both here at home and half-way around the world, there is an increasingly loud cry to empower women and provide them with the opportunities they need to prevail amongst the many challenges they face.
Through programs such as fair trade certification, cooperatives and micro-finance, women in the most rural communities are receiving access to education, leadership roles and much needed necessities to help them survive and build a future for themselves. Women who were once considered invisible in the eyes of society are being given dignified work that allows them to combat this great inequality.
In a recent article, Fair Trade USA outlined how fair trade can be a key source of empowerment for women. Through Fair Trade Certified cooperatives, farms and estates, women are receiving opportunities such as “health care, education labor protections, and freedom from harassment”. In turn, women are able to gain the confidence and status to take on leadership roles as businesspeople and citizens of their community.
Factories and farmland that were once riddled with dangers such as pesticides and harmful chemicals are being revamped to ensure the men and women working there are protected. Wages that once barely sustained families day-to-day are being raised to ensure communities can survive and plan for the future.
Things that seem common to us are finally being made readily available in communities, such as “discount grocer[ies], pediatric assistance, free eye exams and cervical cancer screenings.”
Micro-loans are another source of such empowerment through the provision of low-interest loans that allow women to purchase land, start a business or support their children’s education. In addition, other banking services such as savings accounts are allowing women access to something they never imagined before: reasonable prospects for a better, brighter future.
In developed nations, women continue to struggle with the debate over the “glass ceiling” and what it takes to become someone in traditionally male-dominated careers. There is increasing debate over what a women’s role is in her family and in her community. There is also debate over what society should expect from women in terms of body image and what the media should portray. These are just some of the obstacles women face to empower themselves against a different set of inequalities.
In a strange way, it is refreshing to see how women from across the world can bond over this desire to empower themselves for a better, brighter future. Through tough economic times and uncertain social debates, women around the world are attempting to find ways to be pillars for their families and their communities. With 70% of the world’s poor being women, initiatives such as fair trade certifications, cooperatives, micro-loans, and other organizations that are willing to help these women find their foothold (like us at Shopanthropic!) are essential in helping this empowerment movement.