Introducing myself and my journal: Women in Development
Women’s Empowerment is a Means to other Ends.
A recent policy research report by the World Bank identifies gender equality both as a development objective in itself, and as a means to promote growth, reduce poverty and promote better governance (World Bank, 2001a). A similar dual rationale as outlined above for supporting women’s empowerment has been articulated in the policy statements put forth at several high level international conferences over the past decades (for example the Beijing Platform for Action, the Beijing+5 declaration and resolution, the Cairo Programme of Action, the Millennium Declaration, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
It is important to ensure women are empowered in all sectors of the economy. These sectors include the following:
Manufacturing and Processing
Firms in manufacturing and processing make use of both male and female labour. Early industrialisation and urbanization has been dominated by male labour. However, there is evidence that women’s labour contribution to manufacturing and processing industries is significantly increasing although the majority of the women hold lower managerial positions relative to the men, (Rigg, 2003: 431)). These gender inequalities do not discredit women’s contributions to economic development through participation in manufacturing and processing.
Service-Oriented Sectors and Care Provision in Households and Communities
Women are the majority in service oriented sectors of many countries such as health institutions, education and insurance organisations. These sectors are essential for any form of development. All development activities require an appropriate and sustainable knowledge and skills base. Moreover, a healthy population contributes effectively to development activities. Change is occurring to gender stratification but the men mostly dominate at managerial levels. Women are the main care givers and when the bread winner dies most women have to support the family with limited resources. Moreover, the International Crescent of the Red Cross (2008) explains that in all African countries, Home Based Care (HBC) Programmes are dominated by women in terms of actual care giving because of the view that women are the natural care givers. The ratio of men and women in HBC programmes is 1: 6 (United Nations Development Programme, 2003). It is essential to note that care provision to both economically productive and unproductive labour is essential component of economic participation. Care roles to family members and the community are often unrecognized and are not rewarded.
Informal activities may not be recognized as key components of the economy (Morris, 2006: 156). The dominance of economic models from Economics led to more emphasis on formal production and distribution. However, informal activities such as vending and cross border trade are ensuring the economic welfare of most individuals and households. Women are a core group in vending and cross border trade. It is also important to realize that what may start as an informal economic activity may actually culminate into a formal business.
Vending is a vital way of ensuring that consumers have convenient access to small quantities of goods essential to survival and welfare according to their incomes and needs. Buying and selling activities by vendors ensure easier availability and accessibility to goods. Moreover, vending is a survival strategy aimed at generating income from selling goods that are essential for individual and household economic welfare.
Cross Border Trade
Trade across national borders is not only done through formal organisations. Women were initially the greatest number of cross border traders. However, the increasing economic problems and unemployment, men are also venturing in cross border trade for economic welfare. The goods and income from cross border trade by women (and men) are important in ensuring individual and household economic welfare.