Empowering women is not without risks – we need to identify and overcome them.
There’s a statistic that most development practitioners will have heard quite frequently: empowering women farmers would decrease the number of hungry by up to 150 million. There are many facts like it, all meant to make the case for women’s economic empowerment. Reduced gender barriers in access to formal sector work could improve labour productivity by as much as 25 per cent in some countries is one. Equal pay for women could increase national GDPs by 9 to 20 per cent is another.
The UN cites these figures. Businesses like Deloitte cite these figures. I cite them as well. But there’s a problem. It is not that they’re incorrect, or even that used strategically they don’t add force to the well-justified case for women’s economic empowerment; it is that by exclusively emphasising the positives of economic empowerment, these facts obscure how difficult – and how radical – empowering women can be. Repeated so persistently, they risk glossing over some hard truths about women’s empowerment.
To state the obvious, economic empowerment is at its heart about power – and upending power relations, whether between countries, classes, races or genders, is never a tidy process.
This blog initially appeared on Double X Economy. To read the full blog, click here.