Investing in Gender Parity

The World Economic Forum predicts that global gender parity won’t be achieved until 2133.  None of us fighting for it today will be around then to see what it looks like.  Yet, each of us needs to take action now to ensure our children and grandchildren experience it.

Educational Empowerment (EE) generates gender parity through microfinance in a village outside Bago in Myanmar.  Here, in the dirt covered streets, microfinance creates opportunities for women living in poverty to start small businesses.  Women earn household income, and attain increased decision-making power, self-confidence, and community influence.

making cigars_opt_opt (1)Ma Thet and Lei Lei Win spend many hours together every day sitting on one of their porches rolling cigars.  They love to laugh and reminisce about when they were young and growing up in their village.  Ma Thet, a widow with five children, took a loan for $70 to help her continue her small cigar business.  While this may not seem like much to us, it is enough to allow her to run her cottage industry by herself, which then enables her children to stay in school rather than work to supplement the family income.

cooking 2_optMa Khin Cho runs a home shop, selling kitchen items, produce, and rice and coconut soup.  She has taken out and repaid two loans and is now using her third loan to build her business and invest in her shop. These low-interest loans empower Ma Khin Cho to significantly contribute to the family income and be an active participant in the village economy.

When a woman needs a haircut or a bride needs make-up for her special day, she goes to see Mu Mu Sein.  Her first loan was $40, her second was $50, and her third was $70.  She’s working to grow her business and buy more supplies and equipment.  The income helps her support her family and her young niece adopted after the girl’s mother disappeared on a business trip to Malaysia.

What do these women and the 400 other households who have taken out loans have in common?  100% payback!  Educational Empowerment is proud to support this loan program and empower these women.  This model also puts money back into the community by using some of the interest income to support the local school and health clinic.  Like these women, it’s beautiful.

Throughout the world, microfinance is acclaimed as THE answer to poverty and empowerment. However, if not done properly, it’s only a temporary fix. Educational Empowerment’s partner in Myanmar utilizes a model that is sustainable for the recipients. Women learn to stand on their own rather than being dependent forever on the ‘next loan’. And, their daughters are able to stay in school, rather than being pulled out to earn family income. Educational Empowerment is honored to be an essential part of creating gender parity in Myanmar through this investment.

You too can make a difference in the world’s fight for gender parity:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe.
  • Become a champion for women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment.
  • Let your voice be heard for women worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.

Cover photo credit: ILO, Flickr Creative Commons

Women Inspire: Self Reliance through Education

Written by Melody Mociulski, Founder, Educational Empowerment

Having just returned from 3+ weeks in Myanmar, I am struck by the numerous instances I witnessed of girls and women empowered by education – all resulting in their increased independence, self-confidence, and self-reliance.

In today’s world of injustices, human rights abuses, and violence, it was uplifting to learn of positive outcomes and the power of the human spirit.  During my visits with Educational Empowerment’s (EE) partners, I interviewed numerous women and girls to learn of their life struggles, dreams, and thoughts on education. It was saddening to hear their stories of trauma created by poverty, sexual assault, natural disasters, and violence.  Yet, it was extremely inspiring to see how education has helped them to overcome these tragedies and to prevail.

Naw Cynthia, one of EE’s partners, told me of the physical and sexual abuse she endured during her childhood.  She always knew that education would be her liberator.  Cynthia is now a well-educated and respected proponent of quality education and literacy in Myanmar.  She shares her story with adolescent girls to give them a voice and to encourage them to pursue their dreams through education.

Cho Cho, a Burmese friend, told me about the impacts of poverty on her childhood and how she escaped from it.  She was taught by her parents that education was the most important way to escape poverty. Every June when school started in Myanmar, her family skipped meals. They only ate broken rice which is cheaper than regular rice or boiled water grass leaves if they couldn’t afford the broken rice. This was their way to save money for school fees for seven children. Cho Cho and her sister only had one pair of shoes between them.  Her sister (in the seventh standard and now a doctor) would wear the shoes to school in the evening. Cho Cho (in the fourth standard and now a finance supervisor) would wear the shoes to school in the afternoon.   Now, all are seven siblings are successful professionals who work full-time jobs and dedicate their remaining time and income to supporting education for less fortunate Burmese. Like their parents said, they escaped poverty through education. Cho Cho values education because it enabled her to change her whole life.  She wishes that all people, especially youth, learn the value of education.

Daw Khin Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Daw Khin
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Daw Khin Nwe Oo, a tall, statuesque mom of six, sells sticky rice snacks in her village.  As part of our microfinance project, she receives financial and business management training.  Quick to smile and laugh, her business does extremely well, enabling her two youngest daughters to remain in school.  Education is important to Daw Khin.  Because of health problems when she was a child, she wasn’t able to finish primary school.  She wants her children to have good jobs, success, and respect.  Daw Khin emanates pride in her business accomplishments and enthusiasm to become even more successful.

Girls attending high school in the remote Yay Kyaw Toe village in the southern Delta all survived the devastating destruction of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.  They board at the high school and dedicate long days and nights to achieving high scores on their annual exams, learning critical thinking, mastering the English language, and actively practicing their Buddhism.  They know that their future dreams and lives outside the Delta depend on education.

All of these girls and women touched my heart.  They impressed me with their positive, hopeful attitudes, their resilience in the face of adversity, their confidence, and their self-reliance.  They embody the belief that teaching a girl can change the world.

Stay tuned for more news of Naw Cynthia, Cho Cho, Daw Khin, and other amazing Burmese girls and women in my upcoming series in Women Inspire.

Join me in the campaign to ensure all girls receive quality education and develop self-reliance.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

 

Girls’ Education: A Byproduct of Microfinance

Daw Ni, a widow and mother of three girls living in a small village outside Bago, Myanmar, used to support her family by Daw Ni_optworking odd jobs on local farms.  A $30 loan from Educational Empowerment’s micro-finance program allowed Daw Ni to open a small business serving mont-hin-gar, a traditional fish-noodle soup, to customers that she welcomes into her home.

Microfinance creates opportunities for women living in poverty to start small business enterprises.  In addition to obtaining a higher household income, these women develop increased decision-making power, self-confidence, and community influence.

While the savory scents of ginger, onion, lemongrass, banana stem and fried garlic wafting out to the dirt paths of the village might not lead passersby to think about education, in fact, proceeds from the business have allowed Daw Ni to send her youngest daughter to secondary school, an opportunity usually unavailable to girls in Myanmar.  Only 18% of Burmese girls complete secondary school, the lowest rate in all of Southeast Asia.  Daw Ni’s youngest daughter is one of the lucky ones.  Her two older sisters weren’t as fortunate.

There are many microfinance programs that promise to support women like Daw Ni.  What sets Educational Empowerment’s program apart is the holistic, grassroots approach.  EE partners with a local Burmese organization that collaborates with villagers to distribute low-cost loans and financial training to support their businesses.  Transparency is key. A savings component, group-loan structure, vocational training, and ancillary social and health services ease the burden on loan recipients and help the village thrive.

EE’s community-based microfinance program not only helps mothers keep girls in school but also bolsters local education, with a portion of loan interest dedicated to funding a small primary grade school in the village.

Girls’ access to education should be a basic human right.  

Investing in girls’ education bolsters their dignity, saves mother’s and children’s lives, and improves the socio-economic status of the entire community.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment here.
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ rights
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org &  follow us on Facebook at EE, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram

Educational Empowerment was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities in Myanmar severely affected by poverty and injustice. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

 

A Guide to Women's Economic Empowerment

“Empowerment of women and gender equality are prerequisites for achieving political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental security among all peoples.”

-Beijing Platform for Action, Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995)

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, CESO, a Canadian nonprofit organization, published a report on the role of women in economic development. You can access it at:

Women’s Economic Empowerment: A CESO Perspective

Women play a signifiant role in the world’s economy. The income of a woman contributes to the household income and a woman is more likely than a man to invest her resources into the welfare of her family. However, women face many barriers. Challenges are faced upon entering the workforce, and then once they enter the workforce, they face additional challenges of lesser pay, harassment, and more.

70-per-cent

The solutions are just as challenging as the issue itself but one word tells it all.

Opportunity.

“Through better jobs, more options to start and manage viable business, greater access to land, education, and skills development, and more opportunities to participate in decision-making, women can pull themselves out of poverty and improve their quality of life and the quality of their families and communities.” (p. 5)

Half the Sky Movement is also dedicated to economic empowerment of women. Listen to Zainab Salbib, Founder of Women for Women International, discuss the power of investment in women and girls.

Microfinance has proven to be a great way to invest in women and contribute to economic development. Georgette Minoungou is a business owner in Burkina Faso. She began by earning money from selling fruit at the local market. Her income was barely enough to meet her family’s needs and it was unstable. Her plan was to build a fruit stand in the market. Georgette established a solidarity loan with other women in Burkina Faso to access capital from a local bank. She not only built her fruit stand, but she also traveled to the Ivroy Coast to purchase additional types of fruit to sell. Her business grew quickly and she now runs several fruit and vegetable stands in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. She has seven employees, pays for her children to go to school, and has two homes.

Georgette Minoungou
Image courtesy of CESO

Additional opportunities to foster economic empowerment for women? Create opportunities for learning and training, educate women, Increase access to productive resources and assets, like land or equipment, support female entrepreneurship, and more.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 11.35.49 PMEconomic development is just another reason to empower women.

Empower a woman, build a nation.