The typical West African woman radiates a strong demeanor as she walks the streets of Senegal. Balancing a variety of goods on her head, she transports necessities to her family. This invention sparks from the reality that she can’t afford transportation and needs to adapt. The woman is simply problem solving, figuring out a way to alleviate the physical pain of carrying heavy cargo. Whether it’s to overcome physical burdens or economic challenges, underprivileged women deserve to be perceived as capable. These women innovatively develop strategies to maximize their limited resources on a daily basis. The intrinsic motivation to lift themselves out of poverty will propel them to work diligently to be successful. They are capable of overcoming structural violence with useful resources.
In order to improve the professional identity of women in the underdeveloped world, international development theorists need to recognize women as capable individuals who are indispensable to a prosperous economy. The programs’ primary focus needs to be on eliminating the subordinate position of women that was established during colonization. The next phase of development involves evaluating and altering the conditions that inhibit women from efficient production. The true empowerment will come when these tasks are achieved and women will be in a strong enough position to be advocated to participate in decision-making processes. Lastly, the effectiveness approach will work to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of developmental projects.
The micro-credit loan initiative in Senegal Africa is an effective program that implemented these strategies. Micro-credit loans empower Senegalese women to financially support themselves by actively impacting their local economies. Women pitch their micro-business models to international institutions that are willing to sponsor them with tools and resources. Cindy Bronson, a woman who heard a presentation given by women in the local community about micro-credit loan programs, explains, “people are empowered by feeling what they have to offer is valuable. That’s psychological truth. Sometimes people are empowered by getting tools that they need to be awesome.” This essay will explore the specific mechanisms of international aid that foster empowerment among women through the evaluation of micro-finance schemes with supplemental aid programs.
Social inequality is a serious obstacle to enable women’s presence in the professional world. Their lack of access to education results in the reality of women working in unstable employment conditions such as selling goods on the streets or subsistence agriculture. According to the textbook Introduction to International Development, “seventy percent of the estimated 1.2 billion people across the world living in extreme poverty are women” (Haslam, Schafer, Beaudet 87). In order to reduce poverty in underdeveloped nations, international development institutions must address the needs of the majority who suffer. While it’s essential to recognize the reality of gender inequality in order to improve the situation, it’s vital to “avoid falling into the trap of seeing women as perennial victims” (88). The existent conditions are a result of minimal aid attention devoted to cultivating justice in corrupt patriarchal states.
Decolonization is at the root of the issue that inhibits women’s access to resources that would propel economic equality. The distribution of societal wealth was skewed when self-serving elites were too worried about population control to acknowledge women’s essential socio-political role in society. The emergence of feminist groups that fought for better social conditions were fundamental to the basic stages of economic reform because the women “demanded recognition as full citizens and complete individuals” (92). The social advancement prompted the General Assembly of the United Nations to implement a program specifically focused on integrating female perspective and leadership into development discussions. The establishment of the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) network is a turning point in the progression of women empowerment because it brought in the perspectives of experts from various academic fields (95). It aims to restructure the power dynamic so that all genders become active in policy formation.
The book Women’s Role in Economic Development by Ester Boserup illustrates that the labor contributed by women in the workforce is undervalued. The creation of gender labor specialization in the agricultural sector, for example, disadvantaged women because they were assigned simple manual activities that didn’t prosper from technological advancement. In contrast, men could take advantage of new tools and modern farming techniques, which allowed them to be more productive. Boserup conveys that often the chief issue is getting women access to training and credit that will allow them to soar.
Understanding the relevance of capitalism in gender inequality is essential in order to reverse its effects. The lack of interaction between socio-economic classes due to internal disconnection between the periphery and core nations exploits the underprivileged (Haslam, Schafer, Beaudet 94). In order to increase production efficiency, powerful economic institutions are willing to exploit women to use them for unpaid labor and not offer them equal access to endowments. Female productivity would increase by 22 percent if women had access to the same inputs as men (World Bank). Modern development projects function to implement micro-finance into underdeveloped rural areas to jump-start the struggling economies and increase competition.
International development agencies are useful in their ability to offer micro-credit loans to individuals who are denied by corporate banks because of a collateral deficiency. Bronson explains the impressive quality of these proposals and describes the women as, “business-minded women who used logic. It’s not always about skills. Often it’s about motivation. They’re creative because they need to be” (Senegal International Aid Empowerment Discussion Interview). The organizations ensure that women will respect the conditions of the loan by making it a requirement that each person belongs to a ‘solidarity group’ that makes sure the money is used for the economic purpose it was received for. Micro-credit loans are especially attractive to impoverished women because the repayment rate is more lenient compared to commercial banks (Haslam, Schafer, Beaudet 100). The micro-credit finance institutions need to make this the case in order to encourage women to contribute to the international economy at the expense of gathering a lot of debt. Women must make sacrifices, including compromising food and other essential goods in order to meet their financial obligations.
In the case study from the dissertation “Women and Development in Senegal: Microcredit and Household Well Being,” Safietou Kane explores whether micro-credit loans are effective in an overpopulated urban region where the majority of women struggle to fulfill their basic needs. The study is conducted in Grand-Yoff, an area in the middle of the capital city of Dakar. The study evaluates the effectiveness of this specific international aid approach by measuring 166 female participants’ outcomes of nutrition and health. The results varied based on each individual’s economic standing before the study was conducted.
The study concludes that the microcredit’s impact is a direct result of the borrowers’ preexisting household capital (Kane, 1). The women who were financially secure enough to satisfy their basic needs in the midst of their business pursuits profited from the program. They were able to acquire invaluable business experience and expand their professional networks. In contrast, other participants desperately needed to invest their loan money into basic survival needs because they weren’t in a financially stable enough position to take on the business project. These families were still able to benefit from the program, as it empowered them in a different way from the intention of the program. Since children were less needed at home to serve the family, they were able to attend school on a consistent basis. The pressing issue, though, was that the adults struggled to be able to pay back the money and found themselves in the midst of a vicious cycle of debt. This issue is definitely conquerable by lowering interest rates on a need-based circumstance and adjusting repayment schedules. In addition, these micro-credit loans should only be offered in conjunction with other US AID and World Bank programs that are pivotal to their basic well-being.
Another concern of the micro-credit system is that it fails to propel women to move out of the informal business sector. The structural boundaries limit women to thrive in larger business markets. Lack of education, particularly illiteracy, especially makes it difficult for women to enter high-level markets, even with good ideas and motivation. About 35% of the total study population can’t read or write, and 13.5% went through training to develop skills useful to their business field (Kane 134). Examples of women who excelled in the study, Marie and Khady, were among the few who both had high school diplomas and previous professional experience. Therefore, workshops and financial guidance for the women who lack basic training would definitely be useful in avoiding complications with inability to pay back loans. Various other international development programs in conjunction with the initiative described in this case study would offer guidance on the pursuit of impactful and strategically effective investments that would address the flaws of micro-credit loans.
Breaking down the critique of micro-finance programs allows theorists to see the elements of international development that need to be addressed. In order to improve women’s access to credit through micro-finance programs, international aid needs to “expand female participation in the decision-making process by improving their skills, increase their access to advanced technology and create basic focus programs for rural women” (Haslam, Schafer, Beaudet 98). The following supplemental programs tackle the weaknesses.
Each of the programs that aim to indirectly stimulate economic growth would address the flaws of the micro-finance platform. Water For People brings a foundational sense of structure into impoverished areas to eventually allow all women to attain their basic needs for healthy survival. The US AID policy starting in Afghanistan and eventually spreading to West Africa will bring women out of their subordinate position in society through implementation of employment-oriented training programs. The Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy function is to transition women into the public discussion sphere. Following the conduction of these preceding programs, women will be in a fit situation to immerse themselves in competitive business markets. Women will be able to afford substantial quantity loans and the success of the program will allow for it to expand its accessibility to more individuals who could potentially prosper from it.
The organization Water For People builds sustainable water infrastructure programs around the world in thirty different at-risk districts (Lemme Lecture). On the ground staff works to access regions that particularly need aid and create new jobs by assigning responsibility to the locals to maintain the function of their programs. Water for People would be able to address the basic needs of the women from the micro-finance project who were incapable of using their loans for their businesses. The infrastructure programs would alleviate the burden of their household expenses so that they could focus on accumulating the resources necessary to make their entrepreneurship visions a reality.
US AID is already making progress in Afghanistan by declaring the award of a multi-million women empowerment program. According to US AID will devote $216 million to, “promote programs that will help 75,000 young Afghan women become leaders in their political and civil society fields over the course of a five-year program” (Korshak). The key objective is to increase female participation in business by teaching them skills and increasing their voice in political decisions.
The purpose of The Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy is to increase the capability of women by transformation of female identity and make resources more accessible to them. The program emphasizes that establishing a worldwide understanding of women’s rights is a prerequisite to make economic change occur. The discussion groups that are implemented into the program will teach women the importance of the way that decision-making influences outcome.
The effective mechanisms exhibited by these four initiatives tie together to lift women out of a position of poverty. Instead of evaluating which forms of international aid are superior, theorists need to rather direct their efforts to partner organizations that tend to each other’s flaws. Insight into the evolution of gender equality development theory allows us to implement projects that address each of the key mechanisms essential to women empowerment. It is a system of impactful programs that will lift women out of poverty.
The ultimate vision is bright. Following the procedure outlined in this essay will allow women to transcend “from being simple recipients of social assistance to ‘objects to be integrated’ into development and, finally, have become indispensable actors in the quest to eradicate poverty” (Haslam, Schafer, Beaudet 86). Women will adopt their role as a respected citizen in a progressive society. With the new empowered mindset, they will not only view themselves as capable of making an impact. They will take on the responsibility to contribute to a modernization movement that saved their lives.
Boserup, Ester. 1970. Women’s Role in Economic Development. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Bronson, Cindy. “Senegal International Aid Empowerment Discussion.” Telephone interview. 14 Oct. 2014.
Haslam, Paul, Jessica Schafer, and Pierre Beaudet. “Gender And Development: The Struggles of Women In The Global South.” Introduction to International Development: Approaches, Actors, and Issues. 2nd ed. Ontario: Oxford UP, 2009. 86-102. Print.
Kane, Safietou, “Women and Development in Senegal: Microcredit and Household Well Being” (2011). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 345. http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/etd/345 Korshak, Stefan. “USAID Awards Afghan Women’s Empowerment Program.” U.S. Agency for International Development. 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.
Lemme, Kimberly. “Water For People.” Colorado College, Colorado Springs. 6 Oct. 2014. Lecture. United States. The World Bank. Gender Equality Data and Statistics. The World Bank. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. .