We've been told that if you include a number in your blog title, more people will read it. But in reality, there are far more than six reasons to invest in women -- particularly when it allows them to boost their education level or access cleaner forms of energy. Here, we've picked those that are most compelling to Empower Generation. For those who are not yet convinced, or need to be reminded, we thought we'd spend a few moments explaining why women are the world's true change agents.
Everywhere you look, women are the linchpins of their families and their communities. With education, skills and basic resources, they can become even greater catalysts for change.
Here are six reasons why investing in women will help end poverty:
1. Helping women means helping families. Investments in women extend to the world around them. Women don't just pay back microloans, they pay them forward! They know how to utilize money, resources and ideas with wisdom and creativity to make better choices. Women are proven more likely than men to share the rewards of microfinance and put their income back into their families and communities, driving illiteracy and mortality rates down and GDP up.
2. Women and girls are already energy providers. More than two billion people around the world live without reliable access to electricity. Instead, the rural poor rely on dirty and expensive firewood and kerosene to fulfill their energy needs. 70% of these energy-deprived poor are women. Women and girls are also traditionally the providers and managers of energy for rural families, responsible for collecting firewood and other biomass fuels -- often spending between two and nine hours every day to do so. Frequently girls must choose to gather fuel rather than attend school.
Smoke pollution from burning firewood and kerosene inside homes kills about two million women and children every year. Already cognizant of their energy needs, consumption and costs, women are the perfect agents of change to tackle energy poverty in efficient ways.
3. Educating females leads to growing economies. When 10% more girls go to school, a country's GDP increases by 3%. When women are educated and can earn and control income, even more good results follow: infant mortality declines, child health and nutrition improve, agricultural productivity rises, population growth slows, economies expand and cycles of poverty are broken.
4. Empowering women raises economic productivity. Although women make up 43% of the agriculture labor force and are less likely to own land, when women do own the same amount of land as men, there is over a 10% increase in crop yields.
Did you know that women are the principle producers of foods eaten by over 90% of the poor around the world? Economies with women as active participants have grown rapidly and dramatically outperformed those that have not. In business, empowering women leads to a more productive labor force, an improvement in the quality of global supply chains and the expansion of customer bases, since women have a better understanding of other female consumers.
5. Women leaders make the world a fair place. In Southern Asia, women hold less than 10% of top-level positions in the commercial or public sector. Countries where women's share of seats in political bodies is greater than 30% are more inclusive, egalitarian and democratic, according to USAID. Women are more likely to prevent conflict and achieve reconciliation after conflict has ended.
6. Educating women about health care prevents child mortality and promotes healthier families. Women who are educated are more likely to have fewer and healthier children. When a woman is educated about health care, she will go to the doctor regularly during a pregnancy. As a result, she will have fewer complications and she will deliver her baby in safer conditions for herself and the child. HIV/AIDS spreads twice as quickly among uneducated girls than among girls that have even a small amount of schooling. Poor maternal health reduces women's capacity to work and limits their ability to generate income.
Women are already working hard to pull themselves and their families out of poverty -- women contribute two-thirds of the world's work hours, produce half of the world's food. But the task is large. Organizations like Empower Generation are working hard to ensure that women have the tools they need to be entrepreneurial leaders who can help their communities get access to clean and affordable energy. This access leads to educational, health and economic opportunity for all. We're pretty sure there's no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.. .Are you convinced?
Anya Cherneff is the Executive Director of Empower Generation, and will host "Women's Movie Night: Sita's Story: What If Tourism Could Be Used For Good?" & "Pina" on June 24, 2012 during S.H.E. Summit Week. S.H.E. Summit Week, taking place June 18-24, is New York City's first "women's week," with 35+ events designed for, by and about women to inspire each other in work, life & everything in between. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit shesummitweek.com.
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