December 1, 2016
Written by Elise Young
This post originally appeared on Devex.
The push to advance women’s economic empowerment around the world is not a fashionable procurement exercise. It is not a way for governments, private sector investors or implementing partners such as FHI 360 to look good. It is necessary and urgent. It is a lifeline to women, families, communities and countries struggling with health and food security, environmental degradation, economic growth barriers and political turmoil.
Economic empowerment is a universal human right that protects women and people of all genders and social identities from sexual harassment, exploitation and gender-based violence.
Investing in women’s organizations and businesses
Development practitioners, donors, investors and policymakers need to really listen to the people who are most affected when it comes to women’s economic empowerment and equality, or WE3. Although we want to advance the cause and we want to listen, we are not in a good place to do so. One reason: lack of sufficient investment in women’s organizations and businesses worldwide.
The Association of Women’s Rights in Development conducted a global survey in 2010 that revealed that the median budget for 740 women’s organizations is only $20,000. Women worldwide are also losing out in leadership positions, making up only 11.6 percent of chief financial officers in 2013’s Fortune 500 companies. Women hold only 22.8 percent of positions in national parliaments and make up less than 5 percent of mayors worldwide.
Representatives from companies such as Wal-Mart and Ernst & Young, and connectors such as Shamarukh Mohiuddin from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, helped frame this issue from a private sector perspective.
Many companies embrace a “shared values perspective” when it comes to supporting women’s leadership development, capacity building and overall entrepreneurship. Paraphrasing Mohiuddin, WE3 does not just make a company look good. It also empowers key consumer segments and supports better retention. One dollar invested in women’s leadership and skills is worth a $3 return.
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