The need for this day is due to the unfortunate fact that women are still the most discriminated against group of people. One result of the inequality between men and women is that out of the + 2 billion poor, 75% are women (USAID).
As the world’s 10 poorest countries are found in Africa, I will dedicate this blog to the continent’s rural women, and what they’ve achieved in the past couple of decades.
In the 1990s, microfinance initiatives were introduced to Africa, and they were very often directed towards rural women as they bear a disproportionate burden of poverty (80% according to the World Bank). Microfinance services, especially microcredit, focus on small loans which have been shown to ultimately help with poverty reduction. Since 2001, the WHO has published several reports accentuating the success of these services with women in Africa.
One of the most important conclusions is that women are more likely to spend the money they borrow in ways that are more beneficial to their household in the long run. In addition, they proportionally spend more of their extra income on things that help develop human capital, better sanitation, better nutrition and also better health care and education than men. Whatever these loans are used for, the results are often remarkable, and repayment rates much higher than those of men (92% according to the Hunger Project). These are the Africans that are truly changing the face of the continent, and they certainly merit their day.
Other remarkable women are, of course, found in government. Ghandi wrote “if non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women”. In a previous blog, “Africa’s Power Shift?”, I mention that the Rwandan parliament is made up of 56% women. According to President Kagame, whom I interviewed in 2007, the main reason for this is because women will do everything in their power to avoid genocide. I can think of many other excellent reasons for more female politicians world-wide, but that’s admittedly a particularly good one.