Gender Equality: Insights on Financial Literacy and Economic Empowerment

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This article was published at “Child & Youth Finance International”: http://www.childfinanceinternational.org/news-and-events/news-blog/entry/gender-equality-insights-on-financial-literacy-and-economic-empowerment

In their actions the Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team (The Youth Governance and Accountability Task Team is an initiative spearheaded by Restless Development, the British Youth Council, ActionAid and Plan UK) advocate for the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on governance, and the participation of young people in governance and accountability. The Governance team has also called for integration of gender equality concerns, and inclusion of young women in decision-making, this through global and national advocacy and campaigning actions in different countries. They highlighted youth priorities, with a special focus on governance & accountability, in the post-2015 development agenda by taking part and speaking at different high level meetings and global discussions in the United Nations among other international bodies.

Gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals

The draft outcome document “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, will be officially adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, which will be held in New York from 25-27 September 2015.

This is the first development agenda that has been negotiated and agreed by all Member States and which is applicable to all for the next 15 years.

The new sustainable development goals aim to complete what the MDGS did not achieve, through addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality and the sustainable development that works for all. The new agenda addresses an action plan for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. It highlights the necessity of fostering peaceful, inclusive societies and calls for the participation of all countries, stakeholders and youth. The determined agenda pursues to end poverty by 2030 and endorse shared economic prosperity, social development and environmental protection. This new agenda that is founded on 17 goals, including a goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as well as gender sensitive targets in other goals.

Assuring and protecting economic empowerment on an equal basis for both men and women has been acknowledged as a human right and as a concern for policymakers. Along with the strap line of United Nations in order to achieve the Millennium Development goals, women’s empowerment is seen as a prerequisite.

The importance of economic empowerment for women and girls

A number of studies and researches over the past years have highlighted that gender equality is a smart economic tool. It has been determined that the unexploited potential of women is a lost opportunity for economic progress and development. Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise expansion at the micro and macro, small and medium enterprise levels, in addition to improving business management and returns on investments.

Yet, awareness of gender differences in financial literacy and of their significant implications has endured quite low albeit policy makers now perceive financial literacy as an essential for sustainable development, and financial education has become a vital policy priority.

According to the OECD/INFE financial literacy survey, women have lower financial knowledge than men in a great number of developed and developing countries. Women tend to be less-educated and possess low-income and most of them lack financial knowledge. The survey shows that women are less confident than men in their financial skills, they are less over-confident in financial matters, and are more averse to financial risk.

When it comes to financial behavior, women seem to be better than men at keeping trail of their finances, but they face more struggles in making ends meet and choosing financial products fittingly.

Regardless of its importance, recent initiatives to measure “financial literacy” recommend that levels of financial literacy understanding are low. This typical situation limits the objective understanding of financial issues and leads to subjective interpretation.

Due the external environment challenges, it becomes a necessity for individuals to enhance their financial understanding, to make appropriate financial decisions so to reach positive outcomes. Such challenges include the decline of public welfare policies, increased life expectation and health care costs; the development of complex financial markets; and effects of the global financial crisis. Whereas the need for financial literacy is largely acknowledged as vital, though the importance of equal gender dimension stays a subject for debate. Such gender differences represent fundamental problems for social equity, with several consequences on sustainable development of countries.

Countries tend to display loss of economic potential when one half of their population is disoriented, particularly in societies where a great percentage of production takes place in informal enterprises run by women. Low levels of female financial literacy and confidence have a negative impact on their participation in the economy.

The conceptual framework that individuals face may differ according to inherent characteristics among populations of women and men that affect their chances to obtain financial literacy. These characteristics may be different: (age; personality traits; environmental constraints). Women and men experience different cultural norms, which limit where, when and how they best learn about personal finance. Studying these factors is important as they may have impact on founding relevant policy responses: effective financial education interventions necessitate addressing different root causes.

Understanding the gender causes of financial literacy in countries requires effective policy design policy, analytical and comparative reports and research highlighting good practices and detailed case studies on financial education and literacy across national and regional levels. Policy makers need to emphasize standards, principles and guidelines as well practical tools to enable and improve strategic financial education.

Investing in women promotes financial literacy and economic growth

Besides boosting economic growth, I believe investing in women has multiplier effects; women plow a large portion of their income in their families and communities. They play crucial role in creating peaceful and stable societies which are important factors for economic growth. Regrettably, even these benefits have been universally recognized and have therefore not translated into women’s full economic participation in different countries, especially in developing countries, where women still face obstacles when establishing new businesses or even increasing existing ones. Among the biggest obstacles are discriminatory laws, regulations and business conditions, with women’s lack of access to property rights, finance, training, technology, markets, mentors, and networks. According to “Women Finance Hub”: 71 countries prevent women from working in some industries. 16 countries don’t let married women get jobs without their husband’s permission, 44% countries don’t let women work at night. We can only imagine one of the reasons behind the lack of economic development of the world when half of the population is discriminated from full participation in the economic level.

Although there has been current focus on developing women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries, this spotlight has been on growth-oriented women’s businesses. Women’s entrepreneurship in micro and small business that are often measured as informal, regardless of these concentrated efforts of poverty reduction initiatives through increased access to skills training and micro-credit, still have not been able to reach the growth potential among women.

I have been working with women in different countries in Africa and Middle East, and I have noticed that the role of women in national economies is more emphasized in recent years by ensuring gender equality and women empowerment among individuals. But the fact is that women have less access to resources, education and health facilities in most of the developing countries, where women are half the workforce. Greater participation of women in economic activities is the major concern of most of the countries, which is considered as one of the best tools to achieve and attain a sustain development.

Governments need to show more financial aid to support efforts to increase women’s access to quality financial services; there is an urge need to highlight women’s crucial role in advancing agricultural development and food security, and encourage policy and programmatic support for female farmers and agricultural businesses owned by women, and reform the policy to facilitating the processes for women in this field.

More support to NGOs, industry associations, and corporations advocating for policy and programmatic solutions that would enable women’s economic participation, also enhance more technology access and providing access to mobile phones, internet, and other vital technologies along with addressing cultural, financial, educational barriers.

Provide capacity building, trainings, and mentoring programs to women and girls and equip them with market information, entrepreneurship opportunities, and the necessary skills to attain economic independence; and encourage best practices to increase women’s leadership in the sector of business and entrepreneurship.

Government states especially in developing countries need to find a solution to one of the biggest obstacles which is data collection; endorse the collection and configuration of gender data in the economic sector to create evidence-based policy and programs aimed at increasing women’s economic participation across all sectors. Governments need to provide their youth with space to hold their leaders accountable and that’s by ensuring youth participation in data collection and arrange for youth to express their innovative analyses that form the basis for recommendations to policymakers, help them make decisions and promote policies best suited to ending global economic inequalities and to generating people-centered sustainable development.

Sana AFOUAIZ

Why 2014 is a key subject of gender equality and women’s rights?

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Empowering women is not only a natural human right to achieve, but also smart economic objective and crucial to ending poverty and boosting economic development.

Let’s go back to the history, actually over the past few years; the incredible work of women’s movements across the world has brought some positive changes. Countries started to recognize the fact that it is necessary to meet the needs of the other half of the population (women) which is left out of education and work, and of course not included in decision-making.

The past 20 years were recognized by signing international agreements boosting the women’s rights situation. For example 1994 was marked by “the International Conference on Population and Development”, which shifted the importance on population control from government efforts to ensure family planning, to guarantee women’s empowerment and improve their lives. This initiative scrutinized issues like access to decent reproductive health services, sexual health advice and eliminate domestic violence and forced marriage.179 countries signed up to the 200 recommendations of the initiative. What a huge step!

Then there was “the Fourth World Conference on Women” committed to achieving gender equality by ensuring women’s involvement in public and private life and allowing them an equal voice in decision-making.

Last September, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson delivered a special speech for special event “HeForShe campaign” at the United Nations Headquarters, highlighting the importance of the participation of men in ending gender inequality.

But with all this success comes the backlash, since globally, about one in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime, and more than 140 million women are estimated to be living with the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation. What are we going to do about this? Why is it too complicated to end up the issue of violence against women?

In 2010, a research by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (Awid) discovered that Women’s rights organizations are underfunded as the average annual of income of 740 organizations was about $20,000.

And regardless of numerous UN resolutions that indicate the necessity of women’s involvement in peace and reconciliation, women are still not included in peace talks.

According to World Health Organization, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. 30% of women who were in relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. Globally, 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.

Shocking right? This is just the beginning.

Referring to the WHO, between 15% of women in Japan and 71% of women in Ethiopia stated physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, between 0.3–11.5% of women reported experiencing sexual violence by someone other than a partner since the age of 15 years; The first sexual experience for many women was reported as forced – 17% of women in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh reported that their first sexual experience was forced.

Recent reviews of European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights showed that in Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day. In India, 8,093 cases of dowry-related death were reported in 2007; an unknown number of murders of women and young girls were falsely labeled ‘suicides’ or ‘accidents’. In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners. In the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, 66 percent of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members.

I’m asking you, how do you feel as a human being after reading this an unlimited numbers of killing, murdering, and violence? How could you, I and we do to change this?

When a woman is violated, this means lower levels of education attainment, health issues, exposure to child maltreatment, suffering from antisocial personality disorder, excluding from the society and development, and accepting the violence and gender inequality.

If the world does not address this issue, it is a waste of the massive potential of women and girls. When they feel safe, when they are empowered, women and girls can be change-makers. The innovators of tomorrow, the power behind stronger economies, and the leaders of a more just country but a whole world.

To end violence, governments need to accelerate their efforts to face this issue by endorsing legislation and developing policies that address discrimination against women; promote gender equality; and to help out to move towards more peaceful cultural norms.

Men need to show respect to women, beating your girlfriend, wife or sisters or any girl, doesn’t make you a man, but a violent.

Ladies, don’t you ever accept to be violated by anyone, don’t let the cultural forms control you as a human being, don’t let them enforce you to accept violence. It is your right to live a peaceful and respectful life.

Living free from violence is a human right, yet many women suffer excessively from violence both in peace and in war, in the home and community, in the city and the country side. Across the globe, women are beaten, raped, injured, and killed.

I hope that 2015 will be a key solution to end violence against women and not just a subject.

Your voice has power. Use it to help put an end to gender-based violence by supporting the International Violence against Women Act during #16Days of Activism!

Do something about it! Start now!

Violence against Women 1_0

Sana AFOUAIZ

Getting driving license was a dream, now it is a danger!

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This article was published on “The Voice of Women Initiative”, check: http://vowinitiative.org/2013/10/21/when-getting-driving-license-was-a-dream-now-it-is-a-danger/

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I quote “Women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and producing children with clinical problems”,  according to a conservative Saudi cleric called Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan.

When I first read this, I said: what is the difference between  the driving seat and the other seats in the same car?  I was speechless, this discrimination has gone too far. After struggling for  many years, to have a minimum of rights which are universal rights that any woman in the earth should obtain; this person comes up with his strict idea that driving has a negative effect on women and their unborn children !!

Where are the rights of women to express their needs? To go to school by their own? To have natural rights? Why are Saudi women not allowed to live a normal life?

Many people in Saudi Arabia believe that only men are permitted to acquire driving licenses. Why is this so? It is simply, because the issue of being permissible to drive is key to attaining other rights of women, for this reason, they try to shut down all the surviving chances for women to be treated equal.

“If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” as Sheikh Lohaidan believes.

He added; “That is why we find those who regularly drive with  children who are suffering from clinical problems of varying degrees.”

In the other side, there are the opponents of allowing women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia have faith that women driving will only break the country’s traditional code. How come, there are against women driving by their own, but they employ a male driver who is not a family member, which means that women will be in a car with a stranger, what traditional code are they talking about?

This simple freedom to drive speaks volumes about the state of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

Conceivably not every Saudi woman wishes to drive, but by repudiating women the opportunity to partake, they refute all women’s full rights as equal citizens below the law. Yet; no government should be able to reject her opportunity to do so.

Anyway giving women the right to drive will not change the approach in which Saudi Arabia views its women. There is a crucial need and an opportunity to generate a dialogue of change in the country. As Manal al-Sharif herself stated when she chose the Arabic phrase that convoys her social media campaign: “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself.”

Yes, for Saudi women to drive! Yes, for Saudi women to study what they want.

Yes, for Saudi women to have equal rights! Yes, for Saudi women to have a normal life!

And yes, for all this to change.

*** Manal Al-Sharif is a Saudi woman campaigning for the right to drive in her own country.

 

Sana AFOUAIZ

Mena – Regional Solutions To Climate Change

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This article was published on WECAN website, you can check from here: http://wecaninternational.org/pages/regional-solutions-training-mena

Women and men in rural Morocco discuss issues of climate change in the first WECAN MENA Workshop June 2014

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The Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International launched its first training sessions in the MENA region, gathering powerful, active women who are ready to lead environmental projects, make changes and avert the worst effects of global warming.

The purpose of the training is to build knowledge and capacity of women in order to carry out projects in the field of climate change and to implement sustainable plan actions, as well to confront the social injustice of climate change.

The first training held on the 24/03/2014. Throughout the training we discussed the following subjects.

  • How women internationally are negatively impacted by climate change and environmental degradation and how women are key to climate change and sustainability solutions.
  • What is the status of women’s leadership in climate change in the MENA region?
  • How can women’s networks be mobilized for climate change awareness and action in the MENA region?

 

Addressing Climate Change in the MENA Region:

The scientific reports prove the sensitive situation of the world’s climate. We are warned the necessity to do something before the situation gets worse.  Women are more impacted by the effects of climate change, principally as they found the majority of the worlds economically disadvantaged and are more dependent on the natural resources endangered by climate change.

Moreover, they face social, economic and political obstacles that limit their participation in the decision-making process to confront environmental issues. Women, especially in rural areas in developing countries are susceptible when the local natural resources are the only source of their income. Those women are more aware of the necessity to secure water, food, and fuel for cooking. In Africa and India women walk 6 to 8 hours for water, a great example showing how much they are influenced by the changes of environment, and also shows how important it is to include women in the planning of water consumption.

Though the negative impacts of environment change on women, they still face unequal access to resources and to decision-making processes, which bound their mobility capacity on the issue of climate change. It is therefore essential to identify gender equality strategies to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises produced by climate change.

Women are operative actors and agents of change to address global issues like climate change by mitigation and adaptation. Women have all the abilities of knowledge and expertise that can be used in climate change extenuation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies. Furthermore, women are the suitable advocates to take decisions on climate change, as history shows that countries with higher women representation make better decisions for the environment.

In the MENA region, one of the most affected by the climate change, is also where the promotion of women’s leadership on climate change is necessary.  They represent an important percentage of the population and their voices need to be heard by the decision makers.  Women representatives are needed to address the root causes of climate change; women who will ensure to bring out the green voice of many women in the region. This could happen through powerful personal narratives, establishing the conversation on gender equality, environmental justice, food security, the eradication of extreme poverty, and public health.

Women have a natural connection to nature and nurturing not only in the MENA region, but also everywhere in the world.

Women have been absent from debates on climate change for a long time. Now is a chance to ensure that women have the opportunity to contribute to innovative solutions to the problems caused by climate change. WECAN is a network where we can take action and implement solutions.

The Role of Women in Leading International Projects on Climate Change:

The human being faces a critical juncture.  Business has been concerned with income only. Our remaining reliance on fossil fuels makes this planet an unwelcoming place for future generations. Women from different parts of the world are aware of the seriousness in taking leadership actions to move to a new greener world.

Investing in women’s abilities, empowering their representation and contribution in all domains of life, and especially in the male-dominated world of business, is one of the most important next steps in undertaking the climate crisis.

The gender gap should be a solved and a closed story.  We need to use all of the world’s resources to resolve the most challenging global issue of our time. A study in “Women, Business and the Law 2014,” indicates that there are still legal differences limiting women’s economic opportunities in 90 percent of 143 countries studied.  The laws studied related to owning and using property, having the right to access institutions and the right to work. Obviously the situation is distressing and frustrating.

The Arab region has one of the lowest per capita water availabilities worldwide. Within the Arab region, water is projected to become severely affected by climate change. Lower precipitation, higher temperatures, increasing agricultural water demand, and damage to infrastructure will increase variability and decrease reliability of current water systems. This requires special and immediate attention.

The region currently lacks women participation in addressing climate change impacts.  Women and civil society members need to work to change the system by putting pressure on governments and decision makers to take the right steps in solving the increasing climate change crisis.  Women can also raise awareness and educate the community.

We want stronger collaboration between governments and societies to create green jobs and green opportunities for investments. We want to change the policies in place to ensure a successful transition into a just and clean green economy that includes participation of women in all stages especially in awareness and education. We want women in leadership roles.

Women are an important resource in tackling climate change!

 

Communicating Climate Change

 

The earth is warming up, and the chances to adapt the ecosystems naturally are diminishing. Yet, many people don’t realize the seriousness of this issue.  Scientists consider climate change one of the greatest threats facing the planet.

Communicating climate change engages the public attention and enhances innovative solutions to confront the environmental crisis.  Many communication tools: including storytelling, multi-media, and messaging can be used to attract attention and express the seriousness of this issue.  Successful solutions, growing a new cultural narrative, and commitment to the mother-earth are symbols of successful communication.

New media allows us to engage individuals, communities, government, organizations and others to stop the climate change. Also, it can be used to catalyze wider political engagement on the issue and to promote sustainable consumer choices and behaviors.  Effective media and communicating methods create online interactions, strengthen and build on real-world connections to solve global issues.

Investing in credible media allows cultural practitioners to promote understanding of climate change. Promoting understanding with reliable evidence is the first step to public engagement. Public engagement is necessary for systemic sustainable behavior.Sustainable behaviors are required to address climate change.

The Rights of Nature

When nature is disrespected and harmed, the human being is diminished and the next generation is impoverished.  Life requires water and natural resources.

The importance of the rights of Nature is especially vital in these times. Our actions have largely been ignoring and forgetting nature resulting in enormous destruction and the devastation of many species, the world has lost balance.

An understanding of the importance of the Rights of Nature includes respecting and caring for all natural species on the earth as well as respecting all human beings. It involves an understanding and respect for the enormously interdependent and interconnected environmental systems and species, which we depend on for life.

Ecuador is the first country in the world to integrate rights of nature in its constitution (September 2008).

The Rights of Nature considers treating nature not as possession under the law, but as a rights bearing entity. The Ecuadorian constitution ensures that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persevere, sustain and revive its vital cycles.  Human beings have the legal authority to apply these rights on behalf of ecosystems.

WECAN, environmental activists, and other international and national organizations that work in environment fields believe in Universal Rights for All.  All human beings have a mutual right to a healthy life in harmony with their nature.

It is right for a river to flow into the sea. Mountain peaks should be covered with snow. Whales should be able to swim in clean oceans. It is right and natural for children of all different species to play.  Respect the Rights of Nature.

As Thomas Berry once said:

“Every component of the Earth Community has three rights:

—The Right to be,
—The Right to habitat,
—The Right to fulfill its role in the ever-renewing processes of the earth community.” 

 

Sana AFOUAIZ