Empowering Women Entrepreneurs to End Poverty
|A group of women meet with their Weaving Dreams Savings & Loans Group in Guatemala.|
When a woman is equipped with skills, encouraged by her community, and empowered with confidence, she is capable of making lasting change.
This March 8, International Women’s Day is a day to recognize women for their achievements and their abilities, and champion their rights. Since World War II, more and more countries have begun to celebrate women on March 8 and advocate for change, especially when it comes to economic empowerment.
For gender equality to be achieved around the world, and even here in Canada, however, “equal opportunity” isn’t enough. Equal opportunity often does not regard the challenges one person might face that another will not. Women in developing countries, for example, face higher barriers to equality than many other groups due to the unique ways they experience poverty, like education setbacks due to menstruation and cultural stigma or early childhood marriage, among many others.
Equity, on the other hand, goes beyond equality. Equity looks at what barriers a person faces in all spheres of life, from family life to education to society as a whole. It realizes that these barriers may keep that person back from taking hold of an opportunity to the same extent as someone who does not face those barriers.
Empowering women economically is one of the most effective ways of overcoming these barriers to achieve gender equality and alleviate poverty. A mother who is empowered to provide for her family can make an impact on her children and community that can last for generations.
How Women Entrepreneurs Can End Poverty
Globally, only around 50 per cent of women participate in the labour force. Many of them face barriers to working, such as negative cultural beliefs and stereotypes to working outside the home and a lack of financial resources to start businesses. When women can’t access education or experience discrimination, the result is a lack of confidence in their personal abilities to become entrepreneurs.
And yet, when more women work, economies grow.
If women engaged in the labour force to the same extent as men, the global economy would grow by $28 trillion (USD), or 26 per cent. Not only would the economy grow, but women entrepreneurs would also boost productivity, increase employment diversity, and lead to income equality. Where is their highest potential for economic growth? Low-income countries.
“Women do not have lesser entrepreneurial skills than men, they do have less chance of getting the necessary training to develop their companies,” explains Beatrice Avolio Alecchi, director of the Women’s Centre at Centrum PUCP in Peru. Women face many barriers to opening businesses, from training and access to financial institutions, to being equipped with the confidence and support to take risks to grow their businesses.
Finance is often out of reach for women. Over 70 per cent of women entrepreneurs in low-income countries lack access to formal banks for the loans and accounts they need for their small businesses.
In these contexts, banks don’t always see women as worth the investment. Women cannot always sign contracts without a man, cannot own land on their own, and cannot travel without a male escort. Oftentimes, their husbands fear that economic empowerment will cause their wives to become uncontrollable and they fear their wives will divorce them.
|A woman in Char Boribilla displays a dress she made after FH sewing training, a skill which allows her to contribute to her family income.|
And yet, by giving women the skills and opportunities to generate income, they can contribute to their family’s finances and help bring their families out of poverty—giving them the ability to address the root causes of poverty in their lives, while enabling them to meet their daily needs.
Maria Becomes an Entrepreneur
|Maria displays clothes at her shop in Rio Azul.|
A Global Issue
|Maria and her husband, Diego, with FH Guatemala staff in their family field.|