The first thing that comes to mind when many people hear the words “women empowerment” are small loans and skills acquisition. Economic and financial independence are part of women empowerment. But they are only a small part of what needs to be done to empower more women in the world today.
Women empowerment entails increasing the economic, social, political and legal standing of women in the society. The goal of women empowerment is to ensure equality among the sexes as well as give many women the confidence to claim their rights. Some of these rights include:
Access to quality education
Equal employment opportunities
Safe work environments
Equal participation in economic, religious and social activities in their communities
Unbiased economic and social justice
Freedom to make financial, health and social choices that affect them etc.
Women empowerment sounds like a tall order. But nations and the world as a whole stands to gain more economically as more women are empowered. According to the World Bank, in most countries females make up half the population. Yet women make up about 60% of the world’s most poor and vulnerable population.
Women are not given enough attention in our society. The discrimination against a sex (women) that can contribute both intellectually and economically is hurting proper economic growth in many countries, Nigeria included. When you empower a woman, you empower a household and by extension a community. These benefits include the following:
"Women are not given enough attention in our society"
This is often one of the most evident benefits of women empowerment. Economic empowerment of women helps to reduce the level of poverty in the society.
According to the UN, women who control more household income through their own earnings or other sources changed the way the household spent money. This change in spending benefits the children in that household. This improved the standard of living.
It is no secret that when women are empowered, the economy grows tremendously. Countries with more women in the workforce and friendly work environments tend to have better economies. This is because countries, in which women are not allowed to work, are missing out on a large fraction of labour required to drive economic growth.
Also, women tend to be more prudent in business and decision making. In our SME loan scheme at Access Bank, we’ve observed that women hardly ever default on loans, unlike their male counterparts.
Decline in Population Figures:
According to the United Nations Population Funds, the world population which is currently at 7.2 billion is expected to increase by 1 billion by the year 2025. This population explosion can easily be reduced drastically if more women had control over their bodies and reproductive health.
In societies where women have gained more education, legal rights ,and economic independence, the birth rate has reduced. Such countries have steadier populations. Overpopulation creates problems of overcrowding, lack of resources, increased poverty levels and more.
Reduction of Gender-based Violence:
The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in every 3 women will suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. This is 35% of the total population of women worldwide.
Another benefit of empowering women is the reduction of gender-based violence. Women who are educated, financially independent and aware of their legal rights are more likely to seek help to end domestic violence or leave such situations than those who are not.
As former Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Asha-Rose Migiro said,
When women are empowered, all of society benefits.
The benefits of empowering women are not limited to women alone. Men, children and the society at large; benefits from the empowerment of women.