Mojisola Karigidi, Founder and Product Developer, Moepelorse Bio Resources

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Subjects of Interest

  • Food Security
  • Governance
  • Health
  • Sustainable Development

Why women’s empowerment is crucial for national prosperity 11 Mar 2024

Women’s empowerment is a process of change through which women who have previously been deprived the ability to make strategic life choices acquire the ability to do so, according to the World Bank. Recently, a senior colleague at my institution shared that her 13 year-old daughter asked her if it is a good thing for a family to have only female children and what would happen if that is the case. My colleague wondered what could have triggered such questions.

The teenager’s questions resonated quite well with me because I had similar thoughts growing up as the first child in a family of three children - all girls. In my case, the trigger was an incident where one of my male teachers questioned why the boys in my class would allow a girl to top the class three consecutive terms.

Notions like this are worrisome because the reality of a female child close to four decades ago are seemingly still the same across many cultures in the developing world. This psychological discrimination that attributes more successful outcomes to male children alone must change in all ramifications. To achieve this, we must make visible the eventual successful outcomes of empowered women who were once girls.

The conversations around gender equality and inclusion, which come up around this period every year to emphasise women’s rights and celebrate their achievements, are basically because there are deeply rooted cultural and religious prejudices, unconscious biases, and gender stereotypes that continue to undermine women’s efforts and their contributions in the society. Many times, these biases deprive women, especially those in the developing world, access to activities and opportunities that should equip or empower them to function effectively.

The level of performance of women in the different roles they play in the society, including as caregivers – birthing and raising children, nurturing families, providing support for men, or even becoming the sole income earner in a household – is a direct reflection of how much has been invested in them. All of these roles have a massive impact on poverty rates and economic and sustainable development at large. When a woman is able to succeed in an interview, earn a promotion at work or owns a multinational establishment, it changes the trajectory of her family for generations and contributes enormously to the development of her community.  

Much progress has been achieved over the years globally regarding gender equality as we have witnessed rising female labour force participation, increasing female literacy, and more women are taking up leadership roles in various sectors. Nonetheless, women still trail men in terms of literacy, ownership of key assets, financial autonomy, and political leadership.

Empowering women is smart economics. It makes it possible for both sexes to offer talents, skills, and know-how for shared prosperity. When women are empowered, it reduces the constraints that hinder their ability to determine and realise their goals. Empowering women does not benefit women alone but also enables men and children to live a more fulfilling life.

Women’s empowerment is majorly in five forms: psychological, educational, economic, social, and political. Everyone in the society has a role to play in the psychological empowerment of women and girls. Helping them to gain self-esteem, confidence, and determination at household, institutional, national, and international levels will improve self-image and conquer stereotypes. A psychologically empowered woman is able to make sound decisions without fear of discrimination.

Women’s empowerment is not a power struggle with men but an opportunity for both sexes to reach maximum potential. Starting from home responsibilities, it is common knowledge that women who obtain higher education are able to make better choices for their children and households when they become mothers. Such mothers know the importance of following the advice of a medical doctor during pregnancy, delivery, and after childbirth. They prioritise vaccinations and other proven efforts to support children’s health because they have been empowered formally through education to raise mentally, emotionally balanced, healthy, and intelligent young people to help sustain the society. They are more positioned to ensure better nutrition for their offspring and maintain a healthy environment for children’s growth.

Educated mothers know the importance of leaning by schooling and are able to assist their children academically during their formative years. It is also more likely for an educated mother to help her children and other children around her both male and female to make right academic decisions and career choices by providing informed guidance.

Women’s education does not only equip them to become fantastic mothers, but it also gives them the opportunity to become financially independent and that brings to mind the economic advantages of women empowerment. Empowering women and girls is key for positive economic and social outcomes. According to the United Nations, empowering women economically entails ensuring women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets, enabling their access to and control over productive resources, and supporting them to get decent work and control over their own time, lives, and bodies. It also includes making sure that women’s voices are heard, and their opinions are acted upon for full participation in economic and political decision-making from household to the national level.

Empowered women have the credentials to take up good paying jobs that allow them to contribute financially to support their families. More than ever before, with inflation and continuous rise in the cost of feeding, education, health care, housing and other necessities that make life enjoyable, it is no longer sustainable for men to be sole financial providers. In Nigeria, for example, the minimum cost of living is above the minimum wage. The current wage of N30,000.00, which is pending review, plus monthly palliative of N35,000 as directed by the Federal Government to make a total of N65,000.00, is certainly not able to cater sufficiently for a small family of four.

The economic situation of many households makes it more difficult for one partner to sufficiently bear the financial burden of the family. If girls are not trained equally as boys and women are not empowered to fit into the labour market and take up worthy positions that will ease financial challenges in families, the ugly consequences will bounce back at the society. Lawmakers in the developing world should push forward policies that will help to keep women in the workforce without jeopardising their family responsibilities.

When people are not equipped to make enough money to meet basic needs, they will resort to various social vices. In order not to experience a more terrible future, women must be granted some level of flexibility at workplace so they can carry the dual responsibility of keeping the home as primary care provider and financial supporters while contributing their knowledge and skills for national development. Enacting this dual responsibility highlights the need for men to also support women in their care roles.

Workplace flexibility plays a crucial role in promoting gender equity and empowering women. The option of hybrid work that allows a worker to perform their duties both on-site and remotely is critical to attract and retain top talents, in this case women, in the workforce. Other flexible work arrangements include flexible hours that give room for women to do school runs, for nursing mothers to take short breaks to breastfeed their babies within work hours or close from work earlier than usual, and job sharing, among others.

These alternatives can help break some of the traditional barriers that hinder women from reaching top positions and achieving their career goals. In fact, closing the gap in the world of work is essential in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5: achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

When the fact that everyone benefits when both boys and girls are empowered becomes more evident in the society and young girls like my colleague’s daughter see as many successful women as men in their local communities, it will be easier to eliminate gender discrimination. Empowering women to lead safe, fulfilled, and productive lives to reach their full potential will raise happier families and promote national prosperity.

Mojisola Karigidi, PhD, a Financial Nigeria Columnist, is a Nigerian biochemist and the founder and product developer at Moepelorse Bio Resources. She is also a Global Innovation Through Science and Technology (GIST) awardee, and an Aspen New Voices fellow.