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Empowering Women

Empowering Women to Create Change

“Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, and produce 50 percent of the food, yet earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property. Whether the issue is improving education in the developing world, or fighting global climate change, or addressing nearly any other challenge we face, empowering women is a critical part of the equation.”

-Former US President Bill Clinton addressing the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (9/09)

 

Women's Empowerment has been a primary focus of our work because it is widely recognized as a primary driver of poverty eradication around the world. Here are some of the ways women’s empowerment has transformed the communities where we work:

 

coop-member-portrait-1.jpgIncreased Gender Equity

Traditionally, the villages where we work are polygamist societies. This means men can have more than one wife, and often, the wives are treated with less respect, have fewer rights, and are excluded from inheriting property. Today, women are recognized as more valuable members of society because they contribute economically to their families and communities. The difference in gender relations has made a huge positive impact in the region for women, men and children.

 

abokuan-nbange.jpgReduction in Domestic Violence

In numerous interviews we have conducted with co-op members, we hear how relations with their husbands have improved, and incidences of domestic violence – which were considered endemic in the area – have gone down drastically.

This is due to two reasons: 1) Families are no longer under the terrible stress of living in extreme poverty, where every day is a struggle just to get by.  2) The social standing of women has improved.

 

aduko-atubdaa.jpgChanges in Harmful Cultural Practices

Attitudes have also changed regarding traditional cultural practices such as female circumcision and scarification of the face. As the women continue to improve their standard of living and education, they are exposed to other cultural influences, and have decided on their own that these practices are no longer necessary. 

Previously, female circumcision was considered necessary so their daughters could be married, and marriage was the only way to provide for their future. Now, education is considered a much more valuable way to provide for their future!

 

amalboba-atia.jpgSpreading Social Solidarity and Democratic Ideals

Through the cooperative business model, with an emphasis on capacity building, thoughtful dialog, and lots of hands-on training, the women in the cooperative have become confident and engaged citizens of their communities.

Each woman has an equal say and vote on all issues facing the cooperative, and this group participation and decision making has filtered into the wider community. The shea facility has become a de-facto community center for the women, where they come together to share ideas, information and resources.

They have learned the value of working together and helping each other succeed. They have even voted that profits should be evenly split between all co-op members even if they are sick and unable to work, creating an informal safety net in a region where illness is a part of life. 

 

ajara-issifu.jpgValuing Education for All

Since most of the adults in the community are illiterate, it was difficult for them to see the benefits of using their precious resources to send their children to school. Since family incomes have increased, and community members are being exposed to a lot of learning and new ideas about everything from basic literacy to composting, they have seen the value of education.

In many regions of the developing world, the education of girls falls way behind the education of boys because girls are considered a poor investment. But co-op members send all of their children to school. They’ve learned from personal experience what can happen when all members of society are valued.

 

nyaaba-mma.jpgEmpowering Women creates Empowered Communities

The purpose of women’s empowerment is ultimately about achieving equality where everybody, no matter their gender, has an equal opportunity to thrive. When half of the world’s population is finally able to tap into their potential and contribute economically, socially, and politically to building a better world- everybody benefits.

The women share the burden of supporting their families economically, and there is more resources available for expanding farming yields, investing in livestock, and developing new micro-enterprises to diversify their income and strengthen the community. Rather than being stuck in the cycle of extreme poverty, villagers are full of hope and enthusiasm as they work toward a brighter future together.

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