Eliminating Obstacles for Women's Economic Empowerment

What is Standing in the Way of Women's Economic Empowerment?

At a time when the world has witnessed such
impressive gains in material wealth, why are
millions of women denied their right to even basic levels of health care, water and sanitation? Why
does living in a rural area continue to increase a
woman’s risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth?
Why are women still more likely than men to have
no income security in their old age? And why are
the inequalities among women widening, leaving
millions of poor women behind?
— UN Women's Report: Progress of the World's Women

No country can reach its full potential without both men, and women, having access to economic opportunities. The World Bank recently hosted a panel with some of the top financial and professional minds, in the world, to discuss the key elements that were needed for tangible, country-level action to enable economic empowerment for women. They arrived at the following conclusion; we must see an increase in equal ownership of and control of land and property, sharing of care-giving and other domestic responsibilities, and equally supporting the voice of women, both at home and in their professional lives for women to achieve economic empowerment. We also must eliminate any obstacles in the way of women receiving access to these seemingly fundamental rights. We need to start viewing women's rights as human rights.

When we look at developing countries in particular, it becomes incredibly apparent the enormous obstacles in the way of women achieving these action items. However, it is also becoming more commonly known and accepted that if more women had access to employment, the country as a whole would prosper. In developing countries, if women had equal access and ownership of land, crop yields would increase 33%. When skill development projects are implements, profits for women's entrepreneurship can rise by as much of 40%. 

  • Case Study: Providing Women Access to Finances via Fintech in Ethiopia:
    • The Issue: There is still an enormous gender gap in countries all over the world: In 2011, 54% of men and 47% of women (in the world) had bank accounts creating a 7% difference. In 2014, 65% of men had bank account and 58% of women… the 7% gap persisted. In developing countries the gap is even larger at 9%. In Myanmar for example, less than 10% of women have access to a bank account.

    • Potential Solutions: Telenor developed FinTech tools to help increases the ability for women to get bank accounts in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, banks often use collateral to give someone access to a bank account (meaning their land or home). Since women’s names are not often on the land or home titles, it is difficult for them to receive access to bank accounts or finances. So, Telenor, recognizing this issue, developed tablet applications to test a woman's likelihood of repaying the loan so that banks could determine her ability to receive financial support without having to show collateral.

Kate Davis