Shivali and Savitri – friends, neighbours and two women committed to building healthier villages in India. © Siri Wrigley and Jemma Holden
Women living in poverty bear an unequal burden of unpaid domestic work. Women are overrepresented in informal and precarious jobs. Women work longer hours than men and earn lower wages. But women living in poverty are much more than their struggles.
Opportunity is dedicated to seeing women empowered through each of our programs: microfinance, health, education and safety. Here are four ways you help women leave poverty behind.
1. Empowering small business owners
Farzana has been making traditional armbands for over a decade. Thanks to a small loan, she was able to expand her business and order new materials from Delhi.
A small business can be the head start a woman needs to break free from the cycle of poverty. But they face many challenges: lack of capital, financial services, insurance, land ownership and technology. Small loans can help change this.
Opportunity is currently providing approximately 6.6 million small loans to families throughout Asia – 95 per cent of them are to women.
When a woman receives a small loan, she opens the door to greater economic participation. She receives access to the financial means, financial literacy and support to grow her small business, provide for her family and become a decision-maker within her family. As her business grows, she may be able to employ others in her community – when women work, everyone wins.
2. Supporting health
Bebi is leading the fight against period poverty. © Matthew Smeal
Women and girls living in poverty often have little say in the decisions that affect their lives, especially around health. They are more likely to face challenges accessing basic information or affording health care. But with knowledge comes power.
Opportunity’s health programs work with local partners to empower women with the knowledge they need to live healthy lives. Local women are trained to become health leaders in their communities, allowing them to spread life-saving knowledge and care while earning an income to support their families.
“We have to do something to solve the problems for young girls and women.”
Bebi Devi was married before her first period. Like many young girls in India, she experienced shame and stigma during menstruation. But she is working to change that.
Today, Bebi works as a health leader, teaching women and girls in local villages about menstrual hygiene and basic health care, as well as manufacturing and distributing sanitary pads.
“Knowledge gives us information. If we don’t have knowledge, then we get sick. If we have knowledge, only then will we be able to do some work.”
3. Keeping women and girls safe
With the right support and access to services, women can live free from abuse.
Women and girls living in poverty are at heightened risk of domestic violence and sex trafficking. Many women aren’t aware of their legal rights or lack the knowledge to identify traffickers. When women continually face violence in their homes, the life-changing benefits of small loans are hindered.
Through our partnership with My Choices Foundation, women and children in India have the chance to live free from violence, abuse and exploitation. Women are trained to identify and support other women who are experiencing domestic violence, while directing them towards a peaceful solution. Young girls and their families are also taught how to identify and avoid human trafficking situations.
4. Ending poverty through education
Students study at a school in Nagpur, India. © Kim Landy
When girls receive an education, they are more likely to find sustainable employment, earn higher incomes, live healthy lives and develop the skills to build a secure future for themselves and their communities.
Yet, 130 million school age girls currently do not attend school. Poverty remains the most critical factor for determining whether a girl receives an education, especially in the developing world where there is usually a fee for even the most basic public eudcation. But through school fee loans, parents are able to pay for their children to stay in school.
With access to quality education, the next generation of women and girls has the chance to break free from the cycle of poverty for good.
Thanks to our supporters, women are empowered with the skills and knowledge they need to make life-changing differences for themselves, their families, and their community. Thank you!