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Blog post of the month: Where the glass ceiling is already smashed

Monique Villa's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For September 2016, the featured blog post is "Where the glass ceiling is already smashed" by Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation and Founder of TrustLaw and Trust Women.

There is a growing sector where women are rising to the top, smashing through the glass ceiling as never before, and transforming the world with big ideas.

It’s called social entrepreneurship and it’s disrupting the traditional status quo, fostering innovation and developing sustainable business ideas to solve the world’s most pressing social problems.

From training rats to detect landmines, to offering micro-lending to Indian farmers, these entrepreneurs see success not just through financial returns, but also in terms of social impact. The ultimate business goal? To set up successful companies that improve the lives of underserved and marginalized communities. It’s not just about the balance sheet, but it’s not charity either.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, conducted in partnership with Deutsche Bank, UnLtd, and the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network (GSEN) shows that women are embracing social entrepreneurship, especially across Asia.

According to our survey, 68 per cent of those polled across the world’s 44 biggest economies said women were well-represented in management roles within the industry. The Philippines ranked first as the country where women were most active in the sector, while Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand took five of the other top ten slots.
 

Perspectives from the Horn of Africa: Improving livelihoods for communities hosting refugees

Varalakshmi Vemuru's picture
Communities hosting refugees, more often than not, inhabit marginal areas which are characterized as underdeveloped, underserved, and environmentally fragile. In these areas, basic social services and economic infrastructures are either absent altogether or poorly developed. The dependence for fuel wood, construction timber, grazing and water (for both humans and animals) on already degraded natural resources by a significant population, both hosts and refugees in protracted displacement, often contributes to rapid environmental degradation thereby worsening the situation. In addition, with many of these areas being fragile and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, protracted displacement further exacerbates the situation. 

In preparing the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) in the Horn of Africa, which supports Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti, consultations with local representatives brought out the critical need to help host communities cope and build resilience. An important challenge posed was how to develop activities that improve the productivity of both traditional and non-traditional livelihoods, including through diversification and income generation in these difficult locales. 
Barren land around Dadaab refugee camps, Kenya (Photo: Benjamin Burckhart)
 

While the team explored options for support, we were confronted with some realities. These included: (i) a high dependence on traditional and low productivity livelihoods, including agriculture, agro-pastoralism, and pastoralism; (ii) degraded natural resources base due to greater susceptibility to climate related events especially flash floods and droughts; (iii) lack of or limited access to basic social services and economic infrastructure, including rural finance and market infrastructure; (iv) inadequate presence and/or  limited capacity of the public sector; and (v) near absence of and/or non-vibrant private sector. 

Based on experience with supporting traditional livelihoods and livelihood diversification in a range of settings, including fragile and conflict affected contexts, the team and partners in Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti arrived at the following key considerations to promote livelihoods: 
  • Ensuring a focus on women and youth for livelihoods support given they are among the most vulnerable both among host and refugee communities.
  • Putting in place an inclusive and participatory planning process for livelihoods promotion and diversification is necessary to ensure community ownership.  
  • Establishing and/or strengthening community institutions focused on livelihoods is critical not only for training, capacity building, and livelihoods development; but also for promoting social cohesion and peace building between host and refugee communities thus creating an enabling environment for livelihoods promotion. 
  • Appreciating and mobilizing individual and community talents, skills and assets could serve to be a good starting point for supporting livelihoods in target communities, although designing livelihood programs and promoting livelihoods diversification requires careful assessment.
  • Understanding existing streams of livelihoods and livelihood diversification options is essential to better explore (i) existing traditional forms of livelihoods - stabilizing, expanding, and making them productive and sustainable; (ii) alternative forms of livelihoods (livelihoods diversification), including self-employment - micro-enterprise development, targeting micro-entrepreneurs; (iii) skilled wage employment - opportunities for youth and women in growing sectors of the economy; and (iv) technical, behavioral, and market-performance assessment for determining viable options. 
  • Access to finance should look at savings and credit groups and their saving mobilization and internal lending activities alongside the formal and non-formal financial institutions within and outside the target communities. 
  • Collectives of producers would need to be built on small scale livelihoods undertaken by individuals, community groups or institutions. The aggregation and/or upscaling will require access to larger markets, infrastructure for storage, transport facilities and appropriate technology for value addition and value chains; and importantly partnerships with the private sector.
  • Leveraging on initiatives that are existing, innovative and working in target communities and then adding value, including scaling up is more helpful. Given the challenging circumstances, transplanting models from more stable and developed environments may have limited chances of taking root.
  • Capacities and strengths of implementing agencies, local governments and communities should determine the scope and scale of livelihood activities while also paying attention to addressing the skills deficit and building sustainable capacity for planning, implementation and management of livelihood programs at all levels.
  • Phasing and sequencing of livelihood interventions will help manage the trade-off of a short-term versus a long-term planning horizon innovatively. Piloting and scaling up based on experience is a useful strategy to pursue.
  • Linkages and partnerships for greater impact need to be actively explored and established. Regular coordination meetings help encourage collaboration and partnerships, and provide feedback on implementation, share key learning and discuss challenges. 
Irrigation scheme in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia  (Photo: Benjamin Burckhart)


Promoting livelihoods is a challenging proposition in most contexts, much more so in displacement situations with their unique circumstances.  We are happy to share our perspectives as we work to help the people living in the Horn of Africa and look forward to hearing your views. 

Campaign Art: End the Silence

Sangeetha Shanmugham's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
 
Violence against women is a major hurdle to development, and unless its root causes are addressed, many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) will not be met. It’s an issue that stains the futures of millions of women and girls, every day, all over the world.
 
In a 2005 report, the World Health Organization stated that violence against women is a major threat to social and economic development. It has been linked to poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, child mortality and maternal illness. An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. Challenges remain however in implementing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.
 
Up to 7 in 10 women report having been physically or sexually abused at some point in their lifetime. Up to 50 per cent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. One in four women experiences physical or sexual violence during pregnancy.

Those are grim numbers and part of the problem is that violence against women is simply not recognized.

So how can we tackle this global issue? One way is by bringing more awareness to it.

The logical next step toward gender equality: Generating evidence on what works

Sudhir Shetty's picture
© World Bank
College students in Vietnam. © World Bank


As in much of the rest of the developing world, developing countries in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) have made progress in closing many gender disparities, particularly in areas such as education and health outcomes. Even on the gender gaps that still remain significant, more is now known about why these have remained “sticky” despite rapid economic progress. 

Ensuring that women and girls are on a level playing field with men and boys is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It is right because gender equality is a core objective of development. And it is smart because gender equality can spur development. It has been estimated, for instance, that labor productivity in developing East Asia and Pacific could be 7-18% higher if women had equal access to productive resources and worked in the same sectors and types of jobs as men.

Making South Asian Apparel Exports More Competitive

Ritika D’Souza's picture

Apparel workers in Bangladesh

There is now a huge window of opportunity for South Asia to create more apparel jobs, as rising wages in China compel buyers to look to other sourcing destinations.  Our new report – Stitches to Riches?: Apparel Employment, Trade, and Economic Development in South Asia  –  estimates that the region could create 1.5 million new apparel jobs, of which half a million would be for women. And these jobs would be good for development, because they employ low-skilled workers in large numbers, bring women into the workforce (which benefits their families and society), and facilitate knowledge spillovers that benefit the economy as a whole.

But for these jobs to be created, our report finds that apparel producers will need to become more competitive – chiefly by (i) strengthening links between the apparel and textile sectors; (ii) moving into design, marketing, and branding; and (iii) shifting from a concentration on cotton products to including those made from man-made fibers (MMFs) – now discouraged by high tariffs and import barriers. These suggestions recently drew strong support from panels of academics and representatives from the private sector and government when the report was launched mid-year in Colombo, Delhi, Dhaka, and Islamabad. South Asia is now moving on some of these fronts but a lot more could be done.

Moving up the apparel value chain
Stitches to Riches? finds that South Asia’s abundant low-cost labor supply makes it extremely cost competitive (except for possibly Sri Lanka). But rapidly rising living costs in apparel manufacturing hubs, coupled with international scrutiny, are increasing pressure on producers to raise wages. Plus, countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, who enjoy a similar cost advantage, are entering the fray, and some East Asian countries already pose a big challenge. The good news is that the policy reforms needed to keep the apparel sector competitive would likely benefit other export industries and transform economies (view end of the blog).

#ItsPossible to End Poverty

Christine Montgomery's picture

Ending poverty is within our reach. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved since 1990, thanks to the sustained efforts of countless individuals, organizations and nations. 

Show us how #ItsPossible.

SDGs Made with Code: Giving women and girls the power to change the world

Mariana Dahan's picture
Increasingly more aspects in our lives are powered by technology, yet women aren’t represented in the roles that create this technology. In many places there are barriers to simply using technology, let alone, creating it. Women in India and Egypt are six times more likely than women in Uganda to say that internet use is not considered appropriate for them, and that their friends or family may disapprove. Learning to create with technology opens up opportunities for women to express themselves, have the ideas heard and contribute to shaping our future. Even though there’s so much more we need to do, we’re inspired to see the movement around the world to break down these barriers and start contributing their voices to the field of technology.

We recently met Mariana Costa from Laboratoria – a nonprofit that empowers young women by providing them access to the digital sector. In the next three years Laboratoria will train more than 10,000 young women as coders. This tech social enterprise located in Peru, Mexico and Chile, helps young women - who have not previously had access to quality education – enroll in an immersive five-month training program at Laboratoria’s Code Academy, where students achieve an intermediate level on the most common web development languages and tools. Their technical development is complemented with a personal development program that helps them build the soft skills needed to perform well at work. Successful graduates also receive mentoring and job placement and are usually able to pay-back the cost of the course during their first two years of employment. Most of the time, these young girls are the only breadwinners in their households.

Where the glass ceiling is already smashed

Monique Villa's picture

There is a growing sector where women are rising to the top, smashing through the glass ceiling as never before, and transforming the world with big ideas.

It’s called social entrepreneurship and it’s disrupting the traditional status quo, fostering innovation and developing sustainable business ideas to solve the world’s most pressing social problems.

From training rats to detect landmines, to offering micro-lending to Indian farmers, these entrepreneurs see success not just through financial returns, but also in terms of social impact. The ultimate business goal? To set up successful companies that improve the lives of underserved and marginalized communities. It’s not just about the balance sheet, but it’s not charity either.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, conducted in partnership with Deutsche Bank, UnLtd, and the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network (GSEN) shows that women are embracing social entrepreneurship, especially across Asia.

According to our survey, 68 per cent of those polled across the world’s 44 biggest economies said women were well-represented in management roles within the industry. The Philippines ranked first as the country where women were most active in the sector, while Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand took five of the other top ten slots.
 

Growing the ‘economic pie’ in Armenia

Laura Bailey's picture
In earlier posts, I highlighted the importance of creating equal opportunities for all of Armenia’s girls and boys – to learn, to grow, and to choose the ways in which they can contribute to their economy, their society, and their country. I believe that a more diversified and resilient economy, with a fuller range of options for both men and women, can help slow outmigration and ‘brain drain’, and help Armenia grow in a sustainable way.

In addition to our discussions here in Armenia about encouraging women’s participation in the labor market, we’ve also been talking about the ways in which men’s lives and livelihoods are disadvantaged, such as the persistent higher mortality rate for men throughout their adult years. And, we’ve been wondering: how do dynamics like these affect the economy and society as a whole?

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