Today, March 8th
, marks the 15th
anniversary of International Women’s Day
. Focused on Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, and Progress for All
, International Women’s Day is about far more than the continuing effort to shatter the glass ceiling (for more on gender inequity, read this
OECD Report and this
World Bank Report ).
Around the world, women make up 70%
of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty. According to the UN
, Women account for a vast percentage of the world’s absolute poor, disproportionally suffering from hunger, disease, environmental degradation and impoverishment. Even more distressingly, women perform 66% of the world’s work, and produce 50% of the food, yet earn only 10% of the income and own 1% of the property (2009
It is becoming clear that investing in women gives more “bang for the development buck” as investments made in women trickle down
to positively impact their children and communities. In the developing world women are more and more seen as the
societal change agents for lifting themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty. (For more details on the multiplier effect of investing in women and girls read this blog
post and watch this GirlEffect video
In addition, despite systemic imbalances throughout the world, women control the majority of “household” money – the daily funds used for food, cooking fuel, lighting, and children’s education. Taken together, women represent a $10 trillion market
, about 1/6 of the world’s economy.
In business, too, we see more and more women-led organizations tackling this problem household by household. In our 9 years of experience with The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBITM)
at Santa Clara University, we have trained 50 women social entrepreneurs to help them build and scale sustainable organizations that solve problems for people living in poverty. Many have set up organizations designed to empower women and girls.
Below are a few examples of exceptional GSBI alumni tackling some of these issues. We salute them, and the millions of other enterprising leaders striving to end poverty, and the feminization of poverty, for good.
Zipporah Ogwenyi, Binti Africa Foundation, Kenya (GSBI ’08). The Binti Africa Foundation provides poor women and girls in Kenya’s rural areas with access to education and products for health, sanitation, and social empowerment. This includes producing low cost, affordable, and locally produced sanitary pads; providing information about health and rights; and creating clubs with a focus on mentoring and building young girls' confidence.
Suraiya Haque, Phulki, Bangladesh (GSBI ’05). Phulki Provides low cost day care facilities in Bangladesh to enable women to achieve economic emancipation without sacrificing the well-being of their children. Phulki has also begun a project to provide a ‘safety net’, providing counseling, skill training, education and legal services for the thousands of young women working in homes in Bangladesh.
Katherine Lucey, Solar Sister Uganda (GSBI ‘11). Solar Sister eradicates energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. Using an Avon-style distribution system, Solar Sisters sell solar lighting products directly to female heads of household – providing light, hope, and opportunity. Read more on their blog.
Jabeen Jamughodawala, Sahaj, India (GSBI ’09). SAHAJ is a fair trade organization, working with tribal women artisans of eastern Gujarat, India to create home-based livelihood opportunities. SAHAJ economically empowers these women by providing product design and development, business development, marketing, micro finance, and capacity building for women’s craft industries. This helps the women to be able to stay at home, send their children to school and take care of their health and agriculture.
Photo Credit: Gifts and Graces blog
Gregorie Perez, Gifts and Graces, Phillippines (GSBI ‘09). Gifts and Graces works to improve opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged who seek to earn income by making handicrafts and other livelihood products. Those who benefit most are often female entrepreneurs who use their craft to overcome poverty and become leaders and role models in their communities. Gifts and Graces partners with other NGOs to identify marginalized groups, and then provides product development assistance and training which will help them sharpen their creativity, and improve their craft, and strengthen sales.
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