Why focus on women?

seventy per cent of the world’s 1.3 billion people living on less than US$1 a day are women or girls.[1]

This is an unacceptable truth and a reason for Aware’s newest programme, Wool For Women. This art-based empowerment programme aims to train and work solely with women to create sustainable income through craft. Many aid and community development projects focus on women’s empowerment, so what is the value of working with women?

Investing in women and girls’ health, education, and livelihoods has a multiplier effect on poor communities around the world. In the long run, no Development project can succeed without a commitment to gender equality. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) # 3 is to ‘promote gender equality and empower women’. One of the best paths to accomplishing this goal is in the economic realm, because women and girls yield economic returns for society, which impacts families and the community as a whole.[2][3]

Women are the ‘poorest of the poor’, and the ‘third world woman’, because she cares for the children and maintains a traditional home, bears a greater burden of poverty and lack of mobility. A greater market orientation for women redistributes not only money, but also the fulfilment of basic needs and personal aspirations of her family and community. Through microfinance and capability training, letting women manage the money increases the likelihood that the entire household benefits. Whereas men are more likely to spend financial aid or income on personal livelihoods, women invest in food, education and medicine.

Women’s lack of participation in the economic sphere is a structural problem. According to the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), family codes, violence against women, civil liberties, ownership rights, and other social and cultural institutions limit the access of women to employment, inheritance and financial loans.[4] That is, ‘the ability of a woman to transform her life through access to financial services depends on many factors—some of them linked to her individual situation and abilities, and others dependent upon her environment and the status of women as a group’.[5] Women’s lack of control of capital is one facet of how the cycle of poverty and powerlessness replicates itself throughout generations.

Women in Cambodia have an immediate need for work and money, and a strategic need for equal rights. Aware is excited to take part in working towards both of these goals with the commencement of Wool for Women.

[1] The World Bank. 2012. Gender Equality as Smart Economics. Washington DC: The World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/gender
[2] United Nations. 2011. ‘Millennium Development Goals.’ Accessed 15 March 2011. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals
[3] The World Bank. 2012. Gender Equality as Smart Economics. Washington DC: The World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/gender
[4] Organisation for Economic Co-opeartion and Development (OECD). 2012. Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI). Paris: OECD. http://www.oecd.org.
[5] Cheston, Susy, and Lisa Kuhn. 2001. Empowering Women through Microfinance. Research sponsored by the Women’s Opportunity Fund. UNIFEM.

Written by volunteer, Sara

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Categories: Are you aware?, Cambodia, Projects | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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