President & CEO, CARE Canada
No poverty! The first of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that Canada has committed to is ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. How will we end poverty? Let’s look at the story of a fellow namesake, Barbara Larweh, from Western Ghana.
Wanting to do something about persistent hunger in her community, Barbara Larweh, a retired teacher from Western Ghana, participated in a homestead gardening program. She learned how to grow nutritious food and was able to feed her family with fresh eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. But she still needed a source of protein.
Barbara joined a community savings and loans group, where she secured money to buy chickens. Access to traditional bank systems is difficult in many parts of the world. Savings and loans groups consist of community members who are self-managed and who meet regularly to collectively save their money and access small loans.
Barbara’s dozen chickens soon produced enough eggs for her family and left her with a surplus to sell. Wanting her community to benefit, Barbara got training from the international non-governmental organization CARE to lead her own savings and loans group. She started the group with nine women and six men. They were profitable within only one year. There are now 15 savings groups in the community whose members have grown financially, even creating jobs for themselves. This story of one woman’s economic empowerment becomes a story of many families having enough to eat and finding their way out of poverty.
This story of one woman’s economic empowerment becomes a story of many families having enough to eat and finding their way out of poverty.
Aren’t we there yet?
Barbara’s story is just one example of how economically empowering women benefits everyone around her. UN Women notes that Fortune 500 Companies with more women in management achieve a 34 per cent higher shareholder return compared to companies with fewer women.
Despite this evidence, and global commitments since 1979 to empower women, the reality is wanting.
UN Women cites that women are more likely to be unemployed or in informal or vulnerable employment. Women are paid up to 24 per cent less than men, while they do most of the unpaid and domestic work globally, and in 18 countries, husbands can prevent their wives from working. Unequal economic opportunities for women are a significant barrier to our primary goal to end poverty. In fact, gender inequality increases human suffering.
Gender inequality impacts everything
Take hunger, for example. Global hunger is at an all-time high, with hundreds of millions around the world in need of daily food assistance to meet their nutritional needs. Because of longer-lasting wars, recurring climate-linked droughts and floods, crop pests, and poverty, we have less availability and affordability of nutritious and diverse food.
Add gender inequality to the global hunger equation. When there’s less food to go around, there’s less food for those with the least power in the household. Women and girls tend to eat last and least, which impacts their health and socioeconomic productivity. In fact, a CARE study found that in countries where there’s less gender equality, people were hungrier.
When women have limited access to land, limited funds to buy seeds or fertilizer, and limited control of what they grow, their access to nutritious food and the profits from their labour are also limited. When women and girls are more equal, there’s less hunger. With less hunger, there’s greater social progress for everyone.
Giving women equal opportunities for economic empowerment is one sure way to achieve our shared global goal of “no poverty.” Like Barbara, women can lead in improving food security — for themselves, their families, and their communities. This lifts these families and communities out of poverty and onto a path to a better, healthier life. And that benefits each and every one of us.
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