Empowering women to end worldwide poverty

November 20, 2010

by Shannon Keough, Jessica Wegelin, and Jen Wozniak

Editor’s note: The original story and video is located at http://theloquitur.com/?p=7786

Zenebech Gashaw, like many other women in Ethiopia, gets up at 4:30 a.m., prepares breakfast for her husband and children, walks the children to school, which takes up to an hour and a half, and then works all day cooking, fetching water and cleaning.

At dinner, women like Gashaw feed their husband first, children second and themselves last, which often leaves them with no food.

Women being a low priority is the condition of many women around the world.

Women in countries all over the world, especially in Africa and Latin America, are often seen as unequal to men, are rarely educated and are often the targets of rape and abduction in unstable areas.

Finding ways to empower women is the focus of a worldwide movement now.

Bridget Flynn, senior special education and Spanish major, experienced the empowerment of women firsthand as a 2008 CRS International Intern in Ethiopia.

She explained that Ethiopia is a very male-dominated country and Flynn saw women like Zenebech everyday. Flynn said girls are often not educated because they are needed to stay home and help the women with chores.

Even for girls who are able to attend school, it is an extremely dangerous journey.

“A girl would take a 10-mile walk to high school with fear of getting raped or abducted [along the way] or raped at school by her teacher, and she would still go. I complain that the line at the caf is so long, but really what am I complaining about? I have nothing in this world that I can complain about,” Flynn said.

Educating women allows them to live up to their full potential, help countries grow economically and improve the health and wellbeing of all people. Women who are educated not only learn skills for various trades, but receive knowledge about diseases to improve the health of people living in developing countries.

Organizations working on women’s issues understand that one cannot fight poverty effectively unless women are educated and empowered.

“Every time someone makes that decision to say instead, ‘Today I’ll go to school,’ or instead, ‘Today I’ll feed my child first’ or instead ‘Today I won’t let my daughter be hurt by anybody,’ you know anytime that decision is made, it’s a step closer to empowerment for them [women],” Flynn said.

Education is the key, according to experts in women’s empowerment. “I can’t give someone empowerment, but I can give them the tools to empower themselves, and education is certainly one of the biggest tools one can use to empower themselves,” Abiosseh Davis, project associate for the Global Women’s Project at the Center of Concern and a speaker at Cabrini’s Founder’s Day, said.

Currently, about one fifth of the world’s adult population—771 million adults—do not have basic literacy skills; at least two-thirds of these are women.

In March 2009, the U.S. State Department declared a new position of special ambassador on global women’s issues in order to consolidate all work dealing with women and to raise greater awareness that international women’s rights are a critical component to the U.S. foreign policy. Organizations such as Catholic Relief Services create programs that work to gather women together and give them access to opportunities, education, economic means and in some cases technology, so that they are able to improve their lives and move beyond the restrictions they are presently in.

“One should empower women because women have the right to be empowered, simply because we are human beings. We’re here and we’re productive members of society, so really the biggest benefit is that we are creating a more just and equal society when we empower women,” Davis said.

While empowerment may seem intangible, it can be achieved and is essential to the development of a nation. “Once you raise the standard of life for women, you’re also raising the standard of life for those children she cares for and also for her own country,” Arlene Flaherty, justice and peace liaison for CRS, said.

Flaherty said, “To the extent that we can educate women is the extent to which we can empower and mobilize women. Once women are empowered and mobilized and are contributing fully their gifts and their abilities to their families, and also to their nations, then justice and development will occur.”

How you can report on women working for their empowerment around the world

December 15, 2009

The empowerment of women around the world is a movement that reaches into every geographic region and social class around the world. Media attention is focused on the role of women in development through such books as Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. However, young reporters are bringing to light stories about challenges to women around the world and their courageous acts to take their rightful places. [Read more]

The trailblazing women athletes of Lingira Island, Uganda

December 15, 2009

by Michelle Mazzeo

Watch this movie about the trailblazing athletes of Lingira Island, Uganda :


As you can see from the video, this team has a lot to bring to Lingira Island. Sadly, the setbacks are far from small. Violence against women is an epidemic on the island. Almost every girl at the island school has engaged in an illegal relationship, been raped or forced into prostitution. Some girls are married off young before being able to finish school. The banality of violence against women is also reflected in the fact that hardly any perpetrators are sent to prison. This in part has to do with woman’s low status in society: most girls and women do not even report violent acts committed against them. In fact, acts of violence against women have become so normal that some mothers have been known to sell their daughters as prostitutes in exchange for a small amount of sugar.

Since this movie was made, EDGE found out that one of the girls on the team was recently defiled. Defilement can mean anything from rape to an inappropriate relationship with a minor. In this particular defilement case, the community raised the funds to send the man to jail and get the girl tested for rape. Because the girl’s family hid her for 5 days after the incident, they were unable to gather conclusive evidence. Regardless, corruption enabled the perpetrator to return to the island after only a couple weeks.

Now is a time to use the foundation that LGFC has created to spur social change against the widespread violence against women. This semester, EDGE interns on the Women’s Empowerment Research Team have been researching methods for making the LGFC a more effective route for empowering young girls. We must urge the community not to give up on investing in its girls– not to fear change. Instead, EDGE is encouraging them to take a firm stance against all of the incidents of violence against girls and women.

The LGFC girls are the future– they must be given opportunity and a voice today in order to change their world for the next generation.

The girls of Lingira need support more than ever, as one of their only productive outlets is being threatened by the violence against women epidemic on the island. We can all make a difference in this situation, by supporting the creation of EDGE Project’s new, comprehensive and sustainable strategic plan that will ensure, through checks and balances, that football is a safe and productive outlet for girls on Lingira Island. See our website for updates: www.wisconsinedgeproject.blogspot.com