Let’s Talk about the Economic Empowerment of Women
Keshab Chandra Mandal described five separate categories of female empowerment: social, educational, economic, political, and psychological. I agree! One ‘broad brush cannot deliver empowerment’. Different categories require different strategies and effort to achieve success.
Fortunately, the World recognises that the economic empowerment of women is central to growing economies. However, the scale of ‘recognition’ versus the scale of ‘action’ resulting in actual economic empowerment of women varies widely across the globe. The odds against women are stacked so high that without intentional interventions to protect and invest in women and girls, gender equality will forever remain a distant target.
Almost half of the World’s working-age population are women. Disappointingly, only about 50 per cent of those women participate in the labour force, compared with 80 per cent of men. Most women are employed in the informal sector and are more vulnerable to lower wages and job losses. This bias against women is also present in the formal sector, where women, who are as qualified as men and doing the same work, earn less than their male counterparts.
Economic empowerment is needed for the realisation of women’s rights and gender equality. If you are not sold on this, try evaluating it from the monetary lens. According to the Mckinsey Global Institute, closing the gender gap in the workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion to the global GDP by 2025. Empowering women is a win-win for everyone! Empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the World of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This requires our collective effort regardless of individual characteristics! We are all fantastic and can contribute so much more than we realise.
In Sierra Leone, women accounted for 50.8% of the entire population in the 2015 Census. However, girls school completion rates are lower than those of boys. There is a substantial prevalence of violence against women and girls. Women’s participation and representation in elective and appointment positions is very low, and Sierra Leone scores 151 on the Gender Equality Index. While some of these challenges can be attributed to high illiteracy and discriminatory customs and traditions, the lack of economic independence is a huge factor. I have heard of cases wherein the lack of economic independence has resulted in women being trapped in a vicious cycle of discrimination and violence. We cannot allow this to continue!!!
A few months ago, I was invited to provide comments on the World Bank Group’s Sierra Leone Economic Update 2020. In addition to the usual macro-economic analysis, this year’s report focused on the ‘Power of Investing in Girls’. According to the analysis presented, “Ending child marriage could within 15 years generate US$367 million (purchasing power parity, PPP in annual benefits to the Sierra Leone economy by reducing fertility rates and population growth”. “The loss in earnings for adult women working today due to having married as children is US$71 million (PPP).” Additional evidence of why we need to protect and invest in our women and girls.
Six years ago I was recognised by UN Women, Care International , H&M Foundation and the Sierra Leone Social & Marketing Development Agency (SLaDA) for my contribution towards the economic empowerment of women in the Western Area.
Sometimes I hear people say, ‘women do not support women’. Women with good intentions do support other women with good intentions. I received this award alongside other female role models- Haja Sundu Marah, Chair Lady of Koinadugu Women Vegetable Farmers Cooperative; Madam Ducas Taylor, rehabilitating commercial sex workers; Engineer Nancy Kanu of Barefoot Women and Madam Fatmata Sesay a renowned catering teacher.
As an Entrepreneur and Consultant, I use my business and network to contribute to the economic empowerment of women and youths through partnership and training. As partners, they serve as distributors for Crystal Clear products. As a consultant with the Salone Business Women’s Hub , I work with a network of women to provide business development services and also financial literacy training for women in Sierra Leone. While I continue to contribute my ‘drops’ to this ‘ocean’, I am happy many women in Sierra Leone and around the World are doing the same. - starting businesses, mentoring, coaching, collaborating and above all, ‘speaking up’. Thank you to our male allies who have been supportive of this journey too!
No one knows it all. No one has it all. It’s a continuous cycle of learning, unlearning, re-learning and collaboration.
Let’s have a conversation. Share thoughts, proposals, experiences, lessons, and myths on factors hindering the economic empowerment of women and girls in Sierra Leone and the global space. Together, we let’s join our voices to proffer workable solutions and reduce the economic gender gaps in the 21st Century.
Login and share. It’s an uphill battle, but we need to lift more women out of poverty.
Cheers to #learning&doing
 Salone Business Women’s Hub is a certified Business Edge Training Partner of the International Finance Corporation