Under the Millennium Development Goals, the world has made progress toward gender equality and women’s empowerment through equal access to primary education. However, discrimination against women still happens in every part of the world.
Current statistics show only 24 percent of women sit in national parliaments internationally. Only 13 percent of women are agricultural landholders, and over 19 percent of women from ages 15 to 49 have experienced physical and sexual violence. If this is not enough reason to treat women as equals in developing nations, consider that women make up a disproportionate 70 percent of the world’s poor.
Interventions by the United Nations, World Bank and USAID are pushing women’s empowerment projects. However, more can be done. The health and education levels of women and girls in developing countries continue to trail behind men and boys due to a lack of investment.
Economic Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment in Developing Countries
One of the most important ways to promote peace and stability is to provide economic opportunities to empower women. Through economic partnerships between public and private sectors that enable women to be part of a nation’s growing economy, research has shown a ripple effect against poverty that will extend across families and societies.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Rwanda’s pro-women empowerment reforms after the 1994 genocide have contributed immensely to the country’s recent economic success.
Between 2000 and 2015 average income in Rwanda more than doubled, outpacing the average development of sub-Saharan Africa. These reforms require a 30 percent quota for women in decision-making positions, including 24 out of 80 seats reserved for women in the Lower House of Parliament. Rwanda’s women parliament members are also focused on ensuring that their girls are being educated so that they are able to lead economically.
Educational Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment in Developing Countries
Empowerment aims to move persons from oppressed powerlessness to positions of power. Education is a vital component in empowering women in developing countries. Through the provision of confidence, knowledge and skills, women can rebuild impoverished communities. Studies by the World Bank have shown that across 18 of 20 countries with the highest levels of child marriage, girls have no access to education.
Educating adolescent girls about their rights has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in developing countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
In Indonesia, the International Center for Research in Women has worked on making public spaces safer for women by creating women empowerment programs. The programs advocate for safer spaces and a workplace integrated with men and boys.
In Sri Lanka, the World Bank had been raising awareness to reduce the stigma of HIV and AIDS. Because of this, women can obtain the help that they need and decrease infant mortality associated with early child marriage.
Technological Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment
Worldwide, 200 million more men have internet access than women. Women are also 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone, a key resource in developing countries where phones provide security, mobile health care and facilitate money transfers.
Technology has great potential in closing the gender gap and empowering women in developing countries. Educating girls in STEM and IT will help women and girls pursue opportunities in these fields. For instance, in Egypt, women have developed an application called HarrassMap. The application maps out areas of high sexual assault and allows women to feel secure within their communities.
Poverty Alleviation through Women Empowerment
By empowering women to participate in growth opportunities, developing countries will accelerate their economic and social development. Working women invest 90 percent of their earnings back to their families, leading to greater health and education for their children. This, in turn, creates a cycle that sustainably alleviates poverty.