Week 12 — Women in the Workplace and Microfinance

Women Marginalized in the Workplace

Women have been marginalized from the work force in just about every culture. Western societies have mad progress concerning women in the workplace. There are still issues such as the wage gap, but women have many more career options in Western countries than they did just fifty years ago.

I developing countries, especially some in Africa, this is not the case. Progress is in the future, not the present. Women continue to be marginalized from the workforce, putting them at a higher risk for poverty and health issues.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a writer who focuses on the economic development of women in developing countries, says part of it’s the way that we see women. “We underestimate ourselves and are underrated by others.”

“When we talk about me who are exceeding, we rightly consider them icons, or pioneers, or innovators to be emulated. And when we talk about women they are either exceptions to be dismissed or aberrations to be ignored.”

We see entrepreneur and associate the word with men. We see microfinance and associate it with women. Those kinds of view points are part of the problem.

Women and Micro-loans

There are positives and negatives when considering micro-loans for women in developing countries. Money for women is power, and the opportunity to state a small business can give women that power. But as Naila Kabeer brings up in Conflict over Credit, there are times when women are doing all the hard work, but they aren’t reaping the benefits. Often the money a women brings home from her small business goes to the man of the household whether it’s a husband, father, brother, etc. So in these cases, women are not experience financial freedom. Some argue that they still gain power in confidence, in being able to own and run their own business, which is true, but there is still a false sense of economic independence.

Empowering Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC has several organizations that support women through micro-loans such as Opportunity International or KIVA.

The World Bank has financially supported microfinance efforts in the DRC to help empower women financially. 

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