What will finally move the needle on truly empowering women?
Traditional investments in women’s economic empowerment across the globe – in savings groups, crafts and food production, small business development, training in financial literacy and tech – are not sufficient to build women’s assets or influence. Instead, funders need to double down on bold approaches to building women’s collective assets and power, to embrace strategies that will ensure women’s autonomy and freedom from violence and fear.
In a world where entire economies, multinational corporations, and governments are still mostly run by men, it will take more than micro strategies to achieve gender equality. Moreover, as countries struggle amid post-pandemic distress and intensifying climate emergencies, women’s rights are contracting, with violence against girls and women, forced marriage and pregnancy, and economic hardship all on the rise.
But change is coming. Increasingly across the globe, working women are coming together to call for equal pay, safety, and rights, and are forging the solidarity that is essential for building power. This mobilization toward a gender-just economy, emerging from the labor movement, has galvanized women: once they know their rights, women will fight for them, together.
It is the perfect moment, therefore, to fund those women-led worker associations that train in rights, organizing, and advocacy, accompany women in fighting for protection and negotiating power, and can provide legal assistance when workplace accidents and other rights violations occur.
My own organization, WomenStrong International, recently announced new grants, with additional support for capacity strengthening, convening, and visibility opportunities, for veteran women-run labor rights organizations in India, Bangladesh, Uganda, and El Salvador. Our new partners are experts in mobilizing women, whether concentrated in factories or scattered as domestic workers, and in engaging male labor leaders, factory managers, and public officials in combating sexual violence in the workplace and understanding what women need in order to thrive.
Centering women’s rights to a decent wage, safe workplace, health care, and childcare is critical to their leading healthful, fruitful, and fulfilled lives. Internationally and in the United States, those committed to gender-equitable development must now invest in strategies that build women’s power along with their assets and freedom. Women’s power, assets, and freedom: three essential components of a more just and sustainable world.
Dr. Susan M. Blaustein
Founder & Executive Director of WomenStrong International