Women’s economic empowerment – key to sustainable development

maj 15, 2017 · Gender equality/Southern Africa · No comments

Given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide, empowering women is key – not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to overall economic productivity. This was one of the conclusions of the We Effect regional conference on women’s economic empowerment in Lusaka, Zambia, on May 9-10.

Seventy per cent of the poorest people in the world are women. About 700 million women and girls in rural areas are living in absolute poverty. At the same time, female farmers lack the same opportunities as male farmers. Women have less access to trainings, education, credit and loans, and are discriminated against in land- and agrarian reforms.

Maggie Banda and Jennipher Sakala.

Maggie Banda and Jennipher Sakala.

One of the ambitions for We Effect Southern Africa to be achieved by 2021, is that small holder farmer families – targeted by our partner organisations – have increased their net income with at least 30%.

- This will not be possible if women are not empowered economically and included in the development agenda. Women’s economic empowerment is a prerequisite to sustainable development, says Jennipher Sakala, We Effect Country Representative for Zambia.

Transferring legal frameworks into reality
About 80 participants – drawn from We Effect partner organisations and offices in the four programme countries (Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe), national and international NGOs, and government ministries – attended the conference. Guest of honour was the Zambian Minister of Gender, Victoria Kalima.

Among the participating partner organisations was Women’s Legal Resources Centre (WOLREC) from Malawi. Maggie Banda, Executive Director, explains how the constitution in Malawi guarantees the citizen’s right to development and women’s economic empowerment, but how the challenge lies in transferring the legal framework into reality.

- To give an example, women are struggling to get loans and credit. WOLREC addresses this issue by encouraging women to join village saving and loan groups, as well as training them in business development and market linkages, says Maggie Banda.

Voices from the field
During the conference, the participants got the opportunity to listen to female farmers sharing their personal stories. Witty Ngoma and Grace Nachibanga are both members of Women for Change, Zambia.

- Through training in entrepreneurship and record keeping my farming business has started to flourish. We used to go hungry, now we are managing so much better. I am a widow, but since I am doing well for myself now, my priority is no longer to get remarried, says Witty Ngoma.

Grace Nachibanga agrees.

- It can be hard being a women in agriculture, but through the training from WfC we are now participating on equal conditions. Many of us have managed to increase our income and are now able to send our children to school. We are especially encouraging our girls to go to school – it is so important, she says.

Grace Nachibanga and Witty Ngoma

Grace Nachibanga and Witty Ngoma

The way forward
Some of the main objectives of the conference were to offer a platform for learning and exchange among the We Effect partner organisations, provide an opportunity to identify strategic alliances for women empowerment, as well as to give information on policy framework and priorities in the region.

- I am happy to say that we managed to meet the objectives and that our partners went back with follow up action plans, says Jennipher Sakala.

Read more about We Effects work in Southern Africa here.

VIDEOS: ”What does women’s economic empowerment mean for sustainable development?”
Jennipher Sakala, We Effect Country Representative for Zambia, and Maggie Banda, Excecutive Director for WOLREC, Malawi, give their views. Listen to Jennipher here and Maggie here.

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