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In South Asia, poor rural women have begun to set up lucrative new businesses

Adarsh Kumar's picture

Across South Asia, our agriculture and rural development projects are helping transform the lives of poor rural women. From daily wage laborers they are now becoming entrepreneurs who generate jobs for others. Over the last decade, these projects have supported an estimated 5 million micro and small entrepreneurs, most of whom are women.
 
Asha, from Udaipur District in Rajasthan, used to sell vegetables in a nearby town.   Over time, this traditional village woman observed that flowers were in demand near the town’s main temple for use as ritual offerings. With encouragement from Manjula, a micro enterprise consultant under the Bank’s Rajasthan Rural Livelihoods Project (RRLP), Asha began cultivating marigolds on part of her family farm where millets had always been grown.  Manjula helped Asha draw up a basic business plan for a floriculture enterprise, taught her how to estimate potential expenses and earnings, and the way to maintain accounts. Asha now sells flowers at more than three times the price of her traditional millet crop, and her annual income has increased by 35%. She has devoted a larger area of her farm to floriculture, and started a nursery to grow flower saplings to sell to other aspiring marigold farmers.  Asha is now looking to expand her sapling nursery by renting more land, for which she is seeking a bank loan.

Outside Kathmandu in Nepal, Ambika Ranamgar used to work for building contractors, cutting marble and laying tiles in houses under construction. Then she struck out on her own. With encouragement and support from a community mobilizer under the Nepal Poverty Alleviation Fund (NPAF), Ambika took a loan of Rs. 80,000 ($740) to buy her own equipment, including a marble-cutting machine and a generator to power the machines during the city’s frequent power cuts. She then scouted for work visiting local hardware stores, and gradually began to get more clients. Ambika’s income has now more than doubled from her daily wage of Rs. 600 to reach between Rs. 1,000 to 1,500 rupees per day. She is now focused on getting more business and managing her supplies and workers.  At the time we visited her, Ambika had employed five workers, including her husband, and was busy laying the flooring for two houses.

 nepal - Anamika Ramgar

Rural Women Entrepreneurs: What does it take?

Shobha Shetty's picture

“Sabse jyada munafa chuski mein hai (The biggest margin lies in small ice pops)”, says Shanti Devi with the definitive confidence of a seasoned entrepreneur. Shanti, a resident of Kotwana village in Bihar’s Gaya district runs an ice-cream production and sales unit that has an annual revenue of INR 1.9 million and employs 22 workers for a significant part of the year. While sharing the long list of ice-cream flavours she vends, Shanti also signals at a much larger phenomenon. “Every third shop in this market is run by a JEEViKA member, ranging from grocery and utensil stores to a newspaper agency.”


Shanti is the microcosm of a transformative ecosystem that has nurtured 1.8 million new and existing women entrepreneurs while creating 800,000 new jobs in India. The JEEViKA that Shanti refers to, is a World Bank supported program of the Government of Bihar aimed at empowering women through Self-Help groups (SHGs), commodity specific producer groups and higher federations. The approach scaled up nation-wide under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) is driving growth and job creation in rural areas through women-owned enterprises.

Today there are 45 million rural women across India that are mobilized into self-help groups under the NRLM umbrella. Some 3.9 million SHGs and their federations have been empowered with skills, access to finance, markets, and business development services.  This is triggering a huge change in the lives of the rural women.

Women on the march! Two decades of gender inclusion in rural roads in Peru

Ramon Munoz-Raskin's picture
Also available in: Español
 
 
Women maintaining roads? As their job? Until recently, the idea was pretty much unfathomable in many countries. But in Peru, it isn’t. Since 2001, the Peruvian government and the World Bank have been working hand in hand to ensure female workers can play an active role in the routine maintenance of rural roads. This is part of a broader effort to reduce the gender gap in rural areas, and to improve women’s access to social and economic opportunities.

Over the last two decades, a series of ambitious projects have allowed the rehabilitation 30,000 km of rural roads, and supported maintenance activities along 50,000 km. This type of large-scale road projects has created significant economic and employment opportunities for local communities, and this is why we wanted to make sure women could get their share. To make this happen, we organized trainings, developed specific programs that would improve women’s access to resources, and worked to eliminate the barriers that disadvantaged women (e.g. requirements related to literacy or previous construction experience). The result? In 2013, female participation in rural road maintenance microenterprises reached 27% during the Peru Decentralized Rural Transport Project.

Including women in infrastructure: from Washington to Senegal

Julia Prescot's picture


Photo by Adam Gregor/ Shutterstock.com

The theme of this year’s Global Infrastructure Forum was delivering sustainable and inclusive infrastructure. As a woman who works in the world of infrastructure, I was invited to join a panel at the forum made up solely of women to address gender inclusivity and was asked to provide a specific example of a project beneficial to women. The first thing that came to mind was our solar project in Senegal, which has not only opened up the country to solar for the first time, but has also empowered local women through training in business skills through an organization called Empow’Her that was linked to the project.

Charting an Inclusive Approach to Rural Transformation in Jharkhand, India

Priti Kumar's picture

madhubani painting

“We want teachers to come to school and educate our children.”

“When the Anganwadi worker doesn’t turn up for work, we don’t pay her salary.”

I have set up a grievance redressal mechanism to make public services accountable to villagers.”


These were some of the statements made to us by Anita, a once-diffident village woman in rural Jharkhand. What struck us most was the confidence and deep sense of empowerment with which Anita spoke to us. She had started out as a member of a village SHG and now headed the Masaniya village Gram Panchayat (local government) where she worked with other women members to protect the interests of her community.

We - a World Bank team led by Junaid Ahmad the India country director - were visiting rural Jharkhand, one of the poorest parts of the country, to see the work done under the Bank-supported National Rural Livelihood Project (NRLP). As we listened with rapt attention, the women poured out their stories, telling us how their lives had changed thanks to the resolve and positivity that the project had instilled within them. Time and again we heard how it was now possible for them to think of escaping the clutches of poverty and chart out a new future for themselves and their families.

Women Masons in Tamil Nadu: Lessons from a unique experiment

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Not long ago, fifty three year old Parvati Amma was told that she was too old to train as a mason. But that didn’t deter this feisty lady. She took the rejection as a challenge and went on to ace the class.

Parvati Amma comes from Pulkattai village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu where the Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (TNEPRP) has conducted a unique experiment.  In an effort to raise the very low levels of women’s participation in India’s labor force, it is helping rural women break into jobs that are traditionally held by men, where they could increase their earnings significantly.

In this part of Madurai district, most of the men folk are successful masons. The women worked as helpers, merely passing tools to the men as they laid brick over brick to build houses and office blocks. Being unskilled, the women earned half the men’s wages.

Even though Tamil Nadu is one of the most urbanized states in India with high literacy rates, new buildings are proceeding apace amidst the state’s booming construction industry, attracting over a million migrant workers - more than a tenth of whom work as unskilled labor. There is, however, a paucity of trained masons.

The challenge for the women was to take on age-old social and cultural barriers and enter into this exclusive male preserve. Masonry has never been seen as a woman’s job in India, much less in this conservative rural area. For a start, the women wear sarees that constrain them from climbing onto scaffolding to build the higher storeys. Masons are also required to travel long distances for work, and staying away from their families is not something the women could easily do. Apart from mobility constraints and worksites that are not women-friendly; domestic responsibilities, burden of child and elderly care, and a conservative societal outlook, are all challenges.

Nonetheless, the women of Madurai’s Pulkattai village were not to be daunted. They saw this as an opportunity to prove their worth and double their wages in the bargain.
 TNEPRP)
Women Masons in training (Photo Credit: TNEPRP

Supported by a visionary panchayat president and an expert mason from the village who had confidence in the women’s capability - Parvati Amma and 25 other women joined the masonry training offered by the project. 

The future is in her hands

Bassam Sebti's picture


She is described as having strong ideas. A spirited and energetic girl who dreams of a big future, Shams helps children and encourages them to learn and play.

But Shams is not a real child. She is a Muppet and one of the most popular fictional characters in the children’s show Iftah Ya Simisim, the Arabic version of the popular, long-running US children’s show Sesame Street, which was introduced in the Arab world in the 1980s.

In Argentina, a road that connects the present and the past of indigenous women

Verónica Raffo's picture
Also available in: Español
 

 
If someone asked you what can boost gender equality in rural and indigenous communities in Latin America, a road would probably not be your first answer.

Well, think again!

During a recent trip to northern Argentina, we visited one of the main attractions in the area: the Qom Culture Route (QCR), a corridor of seven cultural centers led by artisan Qom women - 10% of the indigenous population in the country belongs to this ethnic group - spread along the recently paved Route 3 in the province of Chaco, as part of the Ministry of Federal Planning, Infrastructure and Services’ Norte Grande Road Infrastructure Project, with support from The World Bank. The project has helped build these women’s community centers and trained them in entrepreneurial, associative and commercial skills.

Who Are the Top 11 Women Who Inspire You?

Pabsy Pabalan's picture

Take a moment and think of the women who inspire you. Make a list. Who are the top 11 women? Would you include a construction worker from Jamaica?  How about a midwife in Sudan or a jewelry maker in Costa Rica? What about a student from India or a small business owner in Egypt?

When most of us think about people who inspire us, we consider world leaders, celebrities, or those who’ve changed the course of world history.  Or we might think of individuals who have had a significant influence in our lives—our role models or people we strive to emulate. The people who make it to our “inspiration list” are there because we relate to them, regardless if we’re man or woman.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we present 11 stories of women around the world who’ve made amazing strides to achieve their goals and make long-lasting impacts on the lives of their children, families and communities.

Getting serious about learning how to overcome women’s economic barriers

Markus Goldstein's picture

coauthored with Alaka Holla

 So two weeks ago we talked about how we don’t know enough about economically empowering women and last week we talked about power issues when measuring this in “gender-blind” interventions.   This week we’d like to make some suggestions about how, with small effort, we could make serious progress in learning meaningful things about how to increase the earning capacity of women.   


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