Education and Innovations Lead to Women Empowerment

Posted: 2017-05-08
Written by: EU Network
Category: Battle of ideas
Tagged: world economic forum women rights women empowerment women wef2017 sintija bernava

Did you know women and girls make up half of the world's population and they represent the majority of the world’s poor? It is  devastating to learn that women and girls all over the world are held back simply because of their gender. They are disproportionately affected by discrimination, violence, and exploitation. Too many are deprived the opportunity to an education and to basic health care services.

Recent developments increasingly emphasize the opportunities that innovations can bring about to address development issues and spur wider social change.  Never ever before the world has experienced such dynamic change in technologies, economies and societies as it is today. Females constitute nearly half of the global population thus the inequalities based on gender seem unfair. At a time when world resources are dwindling and global population is growing rapidly, finding sustainable solutions towards women empowerment  is more important then ever.

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Gender relations and innovation are constantly changing in their own spheres. Innovation through new ideas, products and practices increasingly is seen as a force for social change.  Innovation and women’s empowerment are rarely discussed within the same context but each has essential value for human progress. Each change opens up new opportunities to shape innovation to benefit women.

Women’s empowerment is midway in the change processes that benefit women at individual, household, community and broader levels. Empowering the millions of women who live in poverty is essential for their human rights and for sustainable global development and economic growth.

Some interesting facts to think about:

● Adequate health care, a skilled birth attendant and emergency care help prevent maternal deaths.
● 1 in 5 girls in developing countries who enroll in primary school never finish.
● When 10% more girls go to school, a country's GDP increases on average by 3%.
● 1 in 7 girls will marry before they are 15 in the developing world.
● Girls who stay in school for seven or more years, marry four years later and have two fewer children.
● Women make up nearly 52% of the global total of people living with HIV.
● Women make up 43% of the agriculture labor force. However, women are less likely to own land, and own fewer amounts of land when they do.
● When women have the same amount of land as men, there is over 10% increase in crop yields.
● Women comprise only 18.9% of the world's legislators.
● Countries where women's share of seats in political bodies is greater than 30% are more inclusive and democratic.

 

From well-being to empowerment and gender equality

 

Improvements in water, sanitation, energy and transportation infrastructure, or changes in access to information and communication, agricultural and medical technologies have precipitated shifts in gender relations, increased access for women to employment opportunities, savings and credit to start their own businesses.

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Innovations present a particularly exciting pathway for seizing the present moment and achieving the goals of women’s empowerment and gender equality—goals that have been so difficult to realize in the past. Promoting innovations towards women empowerment  and foster greater gender equality, business, civil society, government, academia and women themselves have the opportunity to create and harness new solutions that offer fresh perspectives to difficult problems.

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Source: International Center for Research on Women

At the most basic level, innovations can benefit women simply by improving their well-being in terms of health, nutrition, income, life span, etc. Beyond vital improvements in well-being, changes can result in women’s empowerment, where women gain resources to make decisions, build confidence and act in their own interests. Deeper transformative changes reshape societal norms, attitudes and institutional practices. Greater gender equality in markets, political institutions, family systems and social roles provide an ongoing foundation for sustaining women’s well-being and empowerment.

There is importance to emphasize not only progress and social change, but also social justice as an important element. Innovative and  expansive efforts are needed to address the fundamental challenges promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality especially in developing countries establishing connection between innovation and women’s empowerment in :

● Use of technologies;
● social norm changes;
● economic resilience.

Historically, these  aspects have been fundamental, persistent and universal barriers to gender equality in almost every known culture. At the same time, the world is experiencing technological change, social change and economic opportunity at a pace never before experienced in human history. When women flourish in any of these areas  there is a demonstrable shift in gender relations.

 

Use of technologies

 

Innovations in technology have the potential to address a wide spectrum of areas where women are disadvantaged: knowledge and information, reproductive health, infrastructure, livelihoods,mobility and communications, among others. Technologies—such as the Internet, cell phones, alternative energies, water filtration and sanitation, reproductive technologies, agricultural innovations—can empower women on multiple levels: individual, household, economic, social and political.

According to statistics, worldwide, 200 million more men than women have access to the Internet. Women are 21 %t less likely to own a mobile phone what is a key resource in the global south where phones provide access to safety, organizing networks, early warning systems, mobile health care and money transfers.

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Closing the gender technology gap means helping girls access training and educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math  as well  information technology.

Access to modern technologies  is a fundamental issue of women’s human rights. For women and girls, access to Internet and a mobile phone can mean access to a bank account for the first time, a new tool to learn how to read and write, or a way to stay safe and avoid harassment in a crowded city. For example,  with a mobile phone, a pregnant woman in a rural area can stay connected to a midwife.

Digital technology is an increasingly important tool for movement building, allowing organizations and networks to exchange information rapidly, and to organize across geographical locations. It also creates opportunities for a diversity of voices to be heard and shared—an important feature of strong social movements.

 

Social norm change - educating women is a powerful weapon in fighting global poverty.

 

Market systems and women’s economic empowerment programmes typically function with an incomplete understanding of how social factors influence human economic behaviours. Programming tends to focus on increasing women’s access to economic opportunities, whether to markets, education, information, or land rights, etc. Less consideration is given to how the socio-cultural context in which women operate influences their ability to engage with and actually benefit from those opportunities.

Issues of child marriage, harmful traditional practices, and gender-based violence also rank highly among the scourges that have held back the progress of most  women living in developing countries. Girls and women are an important resource for global development, but those living in developing countries do not reach their full potential because they do not receive a proper education.

The benefits of providing girls with education can be seen beyond personal welfare and development.  Providing girls and women with an education helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that influences generations to come.

Innovations to change social norms can be catalytic because women’s empowerment requires the transformation of inequitable gender attitudes, behaviors and harmful practices, such as child marriage, female genital cutting as well as restrictions on women’smobility and their rights to education, health, work and civic participation.

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Economic resilience

 

Gender equality is one of the most effective ways to fight extreme poverty and build healthier, wealthier, and more educated communities. Many advocates of gender empowerment question how the developing countries current economic growth and outlook will be sustained, if the subjugation of women’s issues is still deeply and widely embedded. Studies show that women reinvest up to 90 % of their incomes back into their families, compared to just 30-40 %  by men. Mothers provide better nutrition and health care and spend more on their children. Investing in women and girls creates long-term social and economic benefits for all individuals, their communities, and the world as a whole.
Innovations that advance women’s economic resilience support women in overcoming livelihood barriers and produce amore equitable flow of financial and non-financial opportunities and benefits. These innovations include products and services such as microfinance, including credit, savings and insurance; legal and social strategies to increase women’s access to productive assets; and viable employment opportunities.

Innovations in technology have the potential to address a wide spectrum of areas where women are disadvantaged: knowledge and information, reproductive health, infrastructure, livelihoods,mobility, communications etc.

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Studies have shown that state-led innovations for women’s economic resilience can rapidly reach large numbers of self- and wage-employed women and show incremental improvements in women’s well-being and empowerment at individual and household levels. However, state-led efforts tend to affect broad dimensions of women’s empowerment only in conjunction with social and economic investments along multiple dimensions. Impacts on wider, systemic levels of empowerment and structural gender equality take 30 years or more and require multiple investments and effective interaction with women’s and other social movements.

The most successful innovations produce quicker, more powerful changes in women’s lives by combining both international or national top-down investments with bottom-up efforts. Political will and dedicated government commitment provide critical support to innovations for women’s empowerment and gender equality.  Innovations which  are examined with a gender lens support women in overcoming livelihood barriers and produce amore equitable flow of financial and non-financial opportunities and benefits to transform women’s lives.

Investing in women and girls has a powerful impact. It will make the world a better place for all – both women and men. Too often women are viewed only as vulnerable victims. It is time to recognise women as leaders – as agents of change in their families, communities and countries. Without investing in girls and women, or providing unrestricted access to education, political and economic opportunities, without social freedoms such as sexual and reproductive health, the use of modern technologies, none of the sustainable development goals will be achieved.

Sintija Bernava,
Chairwoman of the Board of Non Governmental Organisation "Donum Animus" (Latvia). "Donum Animus" is the only  Non Governmental Organisation from Latvia holding Special Consultative Status of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Leading Speaker at the Session "Education of Women Leads to Community Development and Innovations" at the Women Economic Forum 2017 in New Delhi (India)

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