Women and the World: Why CARE Puts Gender Equality and Empowerment First

Women and the World: Why CARE Puts Gender Equality and Empowerment First

7/31/18

Imagine what a woman could accomplish for herself and her family if she had the support and confidence to pursue her own aspirations? Or what she might achieve if she had the skills and freedom to make her own choices? What might she be if she was free from an environment or structures that hold her back?

Women’s empowerment is a basic human right. But the reality is, most women across the globe are held back by social norms, traditions and discriminatory laws and practices that have limited their opportunities and silenced their voices for far too long.

At CARE, we’re putting gender equality and women’s empowerment at the heart of our work because it’s the right thing to do and we know that gender discrimination and the denial of women’s basic human rights is one of the major causes of poverty. Of the 1.3 billion worldwide living in poverty, most of them are women and girls. But for these women, poverty doesn’t just mean scarcity or lack of money. It means rights denied, opportunities curtailed, and voices silenced, particularly in emergencies.

Women’s empowerment is just one of the approaches used by CARE to reach the ultimate goal of gender equality, which is the equal enjoyment by men, women, boys, and girls of rights, opportunities, resources, and rewards. So, how do we get there? CARE programming in 94 countries is building a world where woman can strengthen their skills, improve their lives, and knock down the power imbalances between themselves and men. An empowered woman takes many forms, and at CARE, we work to help women achieve empowerment through several paths.

Woman in VSLA group.

Financial inclusion for women and improving their ability to participate in economic activities is a critical step toward gender equality. When a woman earns fair wages, has access to loan and credit, can own property, and make decisions, she can invest this in her family’s education and health, thereby strengthening not just her family, but lifting the entire community she lives in out of poverty. Women from CARE’s successful Village Savings and Loan Associations have confided that access to basic financial services and business skills training allows them to be more confident, have increased leadership roles, and take control of their lives.

Girl at school

By allowing women to strengthen their own skills and abilities, they can then begin to address the systems, traditions, and norms that perpetuate gender inequality and shape their choices. Only then can women step into new roles in their communities and shift the power dynamics that exist within the home, work, and public spaces between men and women. It’s this combined effect of changes in a women’s agency, structures and relations that allow us to achieve women’s empowerment globally.

Couple in Rwanda.

An estimated one in three women globally will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime, which can include rape, domestic violence, and child marriage. This has profound implications on women and societies, preventing women from accessing vital resources and getting an education, finding employment, or earning an income. Gender-based violence at home and in the workplace is often used as a tool to dominate and intimate, thus reinforcing gender inequalities. CARE works worldwide to engage men and boys as equal partners with women and girls to prevent and respond to violence and injustice.

Health mother and child.

 An integral part of gender equality is empowering women to make their own decisions over their bodies, health, and lives. A person’s ability — or lack thereof — to exercise their reproductive rights is deeply entwined with gender norms and power relations. That’s why CARE is at the forefront of a movement to safeguard women’s health and her decision-making power with international family planning, or the ability to time and space pregnancies when it’s best suited for them.

A woman waves in public.

As women gain financial independence, safe employment, and education, she is more willing to speak her mind in front of men and communicate with other women in her community. This further increases her confidence and leadership roles, an incredibly powerful step toward women and girls advocating for their own rights and realizing their full potential.

Woman are incredible catalysts for change in communities — and the world. Now more than ever, we should be harnessing the potential of women everywhere and their roles in the economy, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because this approach is proven to alleviate poverty and improve women’s lives.

Take Action with CARE Action

Take action for women worldwide today: The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Empowerment Act of 2018— a bipartisan bill that would prioritize women’s economic inclusion and empowerment — was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate following passage in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, our advocates are working to secure Senate cosponsors and support for the bill.  Together, we can urge Congress to pass this vital legislation and invest in women.

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