7 Days of Action for Women's Economic Opportunity

June 4, 2013
by Allison Grossman, Senior Legislative Associate

Over the past few weeks, activists and advocates and development professionals have urged Secretary Kerry and the administration to continue former Secretary of State Clinton’s work to prioritize the rights of women and girls around the world during President Obama’s second term in office.

Led by the International Women’s Health Coalition, RESULTS allies across the United States have taken to social media for 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls. Starting in mid-April, the campaign focuses on one issue each week that affects the lives of women and girls. During Education for All Global Action Week in April, for instance, the Global Campaign for Education educated Secretary Kerry and the State Department about the need to reach gender equality in education and the importance of investing in organizations like the Global Partnership for Education that will help the world achieve those goals.

This week, the campaign is focusing on Promoting Economic Opportunity for Women and Girls. Policies that RESULTS volunteers have promoted for decades are critical to ensuring that women have the tools they need to support themselves and their families. These include microfinance for the very poor and in the poorest areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The campaign this week provides an exciting opportunity to collectively take to social media to advocate for microfinance services that are inclusive of the poorest and most vulnerable women and adolescent girls as a path to empowerment and opportunity.

But why focus on women and girls when we’re talking about economic opportunity? As a whole, women are more vulnerable to poverty, representing 60 percent of the 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day but owning only 1 percent of the world’s wealth. Seventy-five percent of the world’s women cannot get formal bank loans because they often lack permanent employment and capital and assets, such as land.

But access to finance and the transfer of financial resources enables poor women to become economic agents of change by increasing their income and productivity, access to markets and information, and decision-making power. And when women receive more resources, they spend their money to ensure their children have better nutrition, education, and health care. This investment creates a multiplier effect that strengthens families and communities over time.

Thanks to microfinance, married women often gain greater control over household assets, a more equal share in family decision-making, and greater freedom to engage in and control income generating activities.

The United States government is a key player in the work to increase economic opportunity for these women. Public funding from the U.S. and other donors is critical to reaching the poorest and most marginalized because very little of the private foreign investment capital in microfinance and microenterprise goes to the countries with the greatest need, especially in Africa, or to support the microfinance services that reach the most marginalized. Our fiscal year 2014 appropriations request has more information on the role the U.S. government should play.

How can you participate? Follow along the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #usa4women and #usa4girls. Tell #SecretaryKerry and @StateDept and USAID Administrator @RajShah that half of all microfinance dollars must go to the very poor to reach the most vulnerable women. Tell @usaidpolicy and @usaid_credit that microfinance services should be prioritized where they are needed most, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where lending is low and need is high. If you don’t use Twitter, find these decision-makers on Facebook and urge them to prioritize microfinance and microenterprise for the very poor, especially women, who need these services most. Let’s make enough noise to ensure the administration takes notice and joins our fight to advance the rights and opportunity of women and girls around the world.

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