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Archive for the ‘Female Empowerment’ Category

This week, in Washington DC, the 2010 Women Deliver conference will bring together global leaders to discuss political, economic, technological, social, and cultural solutions for women and girls.

Mother and child head home to Nigerien village of Tsaki. UNICEF/NYHQ2005-1050/Chalasani

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written by: Maria Dieci

Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy, Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East , tells us the reasons why companies should actively promote the empowerment of women in developing countries.

Women’s empowerment and education leads to improvements in child health and nutrition, increases in agricultural productivity, overall economic expansion, and decreases in the infant mortality rate. Two out of the eight millennium development goals set forth by the United Nations address women directly, while the remaining goals positively affect women.  It is for these reasons, among others, that women’s empowerment needs to be a focal point for public policy and action.

However, as Coleman aptly points out, policies cannot be effective when there are still monumental gender gaps in much of the developing world.  Today, many women around the world are prohibited from fully contributing to the societies in which they live because of gender discrimination.  This issue, Coleman argues, to be appropriately and effectively tackled, must involve collaboration around the world including from “the world’s largest companies.”

Isobel Coleman

What Coleman speculates could be “the greatest cultural shift of the twenty-first century” will occur when companies realize that by empowering women in developing countries they not only improve their public image, but also increase their profit. At the same time, the resources that corporations can contribute can make a significant difference in these women’s lives, their children’s lives, and the health and prosperity of their communities.

Positive Effects of Female Empowerment on Businesses:

  • More productive labor force
  • Expanded customer base
  • Increased investment
  • Improved global supply chains

The article highlights several organizations that champion the empowerment and education of women:

  • Nike – The Nike Foundation has distributed close to $100 million towards health, education and leadership programs for young girls. The Girl Effect has raised global awareness and support for female empowerment.
  • India’s Hindustan Unilever – The Shakti Entrepreneur Program provides micro-credit grants to rural women who then distribute the company’s products.  Women involved benefit from higher familial status and self-esteem and invest in their children’s health, education, and nutrition.
  • Wal-Mart – In a partnership with CARE, Wal-Mart has introduced several programs aimed at teaching literacy and workplace skills, many targeted at women.
  • US Military – In an experimental program, the military engages Afghan women in making uniforms for the national police and army.

These four giants are taking steps to empower women.  The hope is that as more corporations recognize the positive effects for the world economy and their businesses, they will proactively contribute to change the status of women throughout the developing world.  There is one common thread in every story of empowerment: the essentiality of education.

Everyone Can Help Empower Women

Our Global Victory (OGV) has partnered with The MarketPlace School Initiative to give this gift of education to vulnerable men, women, and children in Nigeria.  The project provides literacy classes to those who have not been able to overcome the barriers to education.  This project’s unique approach is that it brings education to the marketplace – the place where most of the community congregates to work.  It targets women especially and enables them to apply for micro-loans, start businesses, and increase their income so they can provide for their families, purchase uniforms, and afford school fees for their children.  Visit the OGV site today to learn more about how you can collaborate with this wonderful project and join the movement to empower women across the globe!

Primary article used for this post: The Global Glass Ceiling: Why Empowering Women is Good For Business, by Isobel Coleman

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