For the world to be a place where all people can thrive, one of many important actions needs to take place: the eradication of gender inequality through empowering women.
According to a report by the UN, empowering women in the spheres of economics, education, human rights, and politics has significant advantages. For example, faster economic growth occurs when more women enter into the labour force and earn as much as men. When women contribute to household income and spending changes, it has many benefits for the children. Families are able to sustainably lift themselves from poverty and contribute meaningfully to their families and the economy.
By increasing women’s and girls’ education, contributions are made to higher economic growth and personal development. Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa have shown that, on average, women with secondary education have three fewer children than those with no education at all.
As a result of these benefits, as well as the importance of ensuring that the rights of women are upheld, the UN has made women empowerment an important part of sustainable development goals.
When bringing women empowerment to Africa, here are 5 innovative ways that are already being recognized as restoring dignity and creating educational and economic opportunities for women.
Empowering Women Through Small Businesses
Small businesses can go a long way in empowering not only women, but all members of the community through providing jobs and opportunities for franchises. The bee farming sector in Africa has been one of many prime examples on how small businesses can empower women.
In Ethiopia, bee farming is still largely traditional; however, modernizing the sector has had a positive influence in attracting women to the area. Women have also been encouraged to join the sector through assistance in accessing funding and land for their business ventures. Their main source of income has come from selling products, like honey, locally at markets, which accounts for approximately 90% of all sales.
In Kenya, the bee farming sector has attracted approximately 50% of women. This can be attributed to a high demand of bee products from the East African nation and affordable access into the sector- farmers don’t need large capital or land to enter into bee farming.
Poultry farming is also a big sector that’s providing opportunities for empowerment through job creation for women. One of the prime businesses making strides in poultry farming is AKM Glitter Company, formed by businesswoman and head of African Women in Agribusiness chapter in Tanzania, a Graça Machel Trust initiative, Elizabeth Swai.
AKM Glitter Company specializes in poultry farming and has a number of hatcheries that provide day-old chicks and fresh eggs to market. Through her business, Swai has created a network of more than 100 farmer groups. In these groups, she provides training and support so that farmers are equipped to start rearing their own chickens. In return, she buys eggs from these farmers and sells them at markets. Many businesses have grown as a result of this collaboration, empowering business owners to sell their own produce.
Explaining the motivation behind her work, Swai says in an interview with Mail & Guardian that “This is my passion and a huge part of my life. I wanted to develop a model that could have a positive effect on Africa, and to empower our youth”.
Making a sustainable difference in the lives of rural communities has been one of her biggest motivators. “Their household health and their education is improved through our work, and some of the profits are being used to help develop rural areas so children have clean water, classrooms, toilets, and access to basic facilities,” she added.
Empowering Women Through Technology and Energy
With American rapper Akon powering over 14 countries across the continent with affordable solar power and Morocco leading the way in solar power with the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, innovations in technology and energy are gaining momentum across Africa.
Close to 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa living without electricity, so opportunities are vast for improving the lives of people in the areas of health, well-being, and infrastructure. The sector is open to women entrepreneurs who are empowered through business and being able to access affordable energy and technology.
Eunice Ntobedzi is a business owner of EmPowered FinTech API/Service, as well as a director of Sandico (Pty) Botswana, an energy service company developing decentralised off-grid community scale Solar PV Energy Hubs in the SADC region. Ntobedzi has not only been an innovator in the energy sector, but has also employed women electrical engineers to support the development of projects in Botswana. She supported the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) movement in the country as well.
Through this, communities that are often unreachable now have reliable and affordable access to power, while increasing the sharing of renewable energy in the Southern African Development Community. With many women being directly impacted by energy, because they mostly carry out household duties, Eunice also believes that having access to clean energy will have significant health improvements. Additionally, by focusing on educating women in the STEM field, which is sought after both on the continent and across the world, women will have better access to educational and economic opportunities. Access to these opportunities will help women lift themselves sustainably out of poverty.