Consider this sobering fact:
Worldwide, women and girls make up 70% of the estimated 1.3 billion people living in poverty, two thirds of the one billion illiterate adults, and two thirds of the 130 million children who are not in school.
Now consider this story:
A teacher by training, Lynne Randolph Patterson never expected to find herself at the helm of a multi-national financial services company.
Twenty years ago, she was volunteering at a young mothers club in La Paz, Bolivia, where her husband had been posted for work.
She was there to deliver empowerment lessons but the women, who attended twice a week in exchange for donated food, all told her one thing: “We need to earn money.”
Along with her colleague, Carmen Velasco, a psychologist, they began to offer the women business training and tried to find them credit.
Inspired by Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, whose founder Muhammad Yunus pioneered microfinance, they began to offer small loans of around $50.
The women formed groups to guarantee each other’s loans, and made simple business plans showing how they would invest and repay their first loans.
“Not being very financial, we made lots of mistakes in the beginning,” she says.
But they persevered, and Pro Mujer (Pro Woman in Spanish) as their organisation is now called, now provides 222,000 women with loans, business training and healthcare in five Latin American countries. [BBC]
And this one as well from Kigali, Rwanda:
A group of 15 female entrepreneurs will receive business courses at university level, which includes mentorship through a partnership with fellow female entrepreneurs in the US, as part of the “Peace Through Business” programme later this August.
The group of 27 was short-listed after completing an extensive eight-week course largely administered by last year’s pioneers, with their graduation ceremony being held at Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR), at Gacuriro Estate last Sunday.
Jane Natukunda, a mother of three and a tea dealer is one of the entrepreneurs who were simply ecstatic after being named at the graduation ceremony.
“I really feel very happy being among the fifteen women. We learnt many useful business skills in the past few weeks,” a cheerful Natukunda said.
“Previously, most of us conducted business without the proper know-how, but have learnt much – bookkeeping, networking, business management, risk management and even leadership. I am highly empowered and motivated to teach others as well.” [allAfrica.com]
And before I continue, consider this fact as well:
Research has shown that women are more likely to repay loans in full and on time than men. It has also been established that giving a woman access to primary education will ensure that her entire family receives better health care and nutrition. This indicates that providing equal access to education, credit, property and employment for women, will ensure economic justice and sustainability for all.
*Ref: Empowering Young Women to Lead Change
Produced by WMCA and Supported by the United Nations Populations Fund, published in 2006
So what’s the lesson here?
Simply put, investing in the education and training of women worldwide leads not only to self-empowerment and independence, but also encourages the self-sustainability of small enterprises that promotes business and trade at the grassroots level.
Sometimes an overlooked part of the population, in many communities women are the backbone of the family. Empowering them, empowers more than just an individual.