LatinaLista — When women do well economically, so do their communities. It's a school of thought that has served as the foundation for many micro-loan projects around the world funding businesses by rural and indigenous women. The idea has always been that for women to succeed in their businesses all that needs to be done is to give them a little bit of money.
As a result, women are over-represented among micro-entrepreneurs and small farmers and instead of working their way out of poverty, are still doing low-paid or unpaid work — not because they don't work hard enough but because they just don't have the access to the necessary resources and don't have a lot of education to help them get far enough ahead.
A new report by the UN Foundation and the ExxonMobil Foundation reveals that it takes more than just money for women to be economically empowered. In their study, A Roadmap for Promoting Women's Economic Empowerment, "eighteen research studies were commissioned to help identify the most effective interventions to empower women economically across four categories of employment – entrepreneurship, farming, wage employment and young women’s employment."
The studies were a mix of analyzing new data and examining the results of projects already in place. What was discovered highlighted two important factors that influence a woman's potential for success: the country and the state of the local economy.
Other highlights from the report include:
- Capital alone, as a small loan or a grant, is not enough to grow women-owned subsistence-leve firms.
- A relatively large capital transfer, if paired with income generation training and follow-up technical visits, can transform occupational choices of very poor women, and can be cost-effective.
- Capital alone can work if it is delivered in-kind (e.g., inventory) to more successful women microentrepreneurs whith larger-sized businesses. In-kind capital seems to nudge women to keep the money invested in their businesses.
- Savings interventions increase women's business earnings. Women seek savings vehicles, and use personal savings to invest in their businesses.
- Mobile phones help increase earnings of women farmers and rural entrepreneurs by providing access to market information.
- Skills training, job search assistance, internships and wage subsidies introduced to cope with economic shocks increase employment levels of adult women, but do not raise wages.
While the report targets women in developing nations, it also has lessons that could apply to women in any society who find themselves with little or basic education but the ganas to be do more with their lives.