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Posts Tagged ‘Business’

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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n506764147_628240_7819There has been a lot of buzz lately about the latest version of the Amazon Kindle – the DX – and its potential role in higher education. The DX version of the Kindle has a larger screen and was created to market to customers who enjoy having their newspaper subscription appear remotely on their e-Readers. The larger screen allows users to view more of the article at one time. It is atypical for a company to offer a larger electronic device after offering a smaller version and charge more for it. However, newspaper readers may enjoy a device that better simulates the paper version.

Now there is talk about the e-Reader replacing textbooks in colleges. This would greatly reduce the amount of paper used in producing college materials, especially when new versions of textbooks come out yearly with only a few small changes. Eventually, these changes could be downloaded like software updates. Amazon announced that Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and Wiley Higher Education have agreed to make their textbooks available in the Kindle store and six colleges will test the device later this year. Although the price point on the e-Reader is too high for mass marketing (about $500), it is less expensive than a years worth of textbooks – if the e-versions are not expensive.

Outside of higher education, less expensive e-Readers could help underprivileged children have access to books that they would normally not have access to. How about One e-Reader Per Child? In many areas of world, communities do not have access to current textbooks. They use older versions that do not have updated theories on science or updated accounts of history. Or, in some cases, teachers must teach only from memory.

This is especially true in refugee populations, with internally displaced people, and other education undertaken in emergencies. Setting up a school in crisis, is an important way to keep children safe and reduce possible post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. It also greatly increases opportunities for children. If humanitarian agencies were equipped with rugged low cost e-Readers, children could have access to their national curriculums without the need for traditional textbooks, which they are unlikely to carry with them in the case of an emergency migration. If each child was using an e-Reader, their education would suffer less from disruption and they could continue their progressing to the next education level.

E-readers would reduce the costs of producing textbooks and shipping them to remote areas. Children could have access to the latest versions of textbooks with up to date historic accounts and scientific discoveries. They would also have access to dictionaries, other reference manuals, and a library of fiction and non-fiction books which would not be available otherwise. Ultimately, children would be better able to compete with students outside of their communities, have more opportunities, become better-equipped leaders, and have a greater chance for success.

It is important for us to think about how new technologies can positively impact underprivileged communities because all communities are inter-related and integral for a healthy world.

Please note: The phrase ‘One e-Reader Per Child’ is a tribute to the One Laptop Per Child program which seeks to provide low cost laptops to children in the poorest communities.

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