By Wolfgang Jamann, CEO & Secretary General, Care International
Throughout March, CARE will be part of global walks marking International Women’s Day. So Join CARE: #WalkinherShoes and #March4Women in London and Melbourne on 8 March; Ottawa, Calgary, Kelowna and Vancouver, 5-11 March.
So let’s get this straight – it’s all about women, right? Wrong. Because the rights of women -- roughly half the world’s population -- to access the means to economic prosperity, health care, and education, in essence, benefits all of us. Planning for success without planning for the rights of women is an unequal formula doomed to fail.
Feminism is not a fad. For decades, the call for women’s equal rights has only grown louder, and some of these from men themselves in centuries past. “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.” So said Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a lawyer, politician, who served as leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until Pakistan's creation on 14 August 1947, and then as Pakistan's first Governor-General. From the same era, and often referred to as the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has said that “humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains that the other half can soar into skies?”
Fast forward to 2017 – is President Trump an unwitting force for good? Well, “If a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” then the more than 4 million people who took to the streets in the U.S alone since protest marches and sister marches began on his Inauguration Day would truly mark the beginning of a new era to bring about fairness. The recent Women’s March on Washington is thought to be one of the largest demonstrations in a single day -- if not the largest -- involving between 3,267,134 and 5,246,670 people in the United States.
Ending poverty means leaving no one behind. Studies suggest that by governments and businesses doubling the pace at which women become digitally fluent, we could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040 in developed nations and by 2060 in developing nations. But what of the “bottom billion” poor who have no access to digital media and will have to make the jump from the 2nd to the 4th industrial revolution? Poverty has a female face so it is CARE’s first priority because, while women and girls bear the brunt of poverty and conflict, they also hold the key to a development revolution. When women are healthier, their children and families are healthier. When girls get an education, they build better lives for themselves and their families. And when women have an income, they invest in their children and families, creating benefits for this generation and the next.
For example, since the 1990’s, CARE spearheaded the Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) microfinance model to support women’s long-term economic empowerment. Today, there are at least 95 financial service providers already offering 106 group savings and credit products in 27 countries to savings groups. East Africa is leading the way, where banks anticipate $15 million annual revenue from banking groups in 2017 and expect to ‘break-even’ within a year. In East Africa alone groups are mobilising $450m per year.
As long as inequality lingers, marches will grow. As the Dalai Lama said, “I call myself a feminist. Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?”