Women and Development

A lot of research has recently been conducted to evaluate the impact of women on development. This chapter will be divided into two sections. First I will detail all of the factors that prevent women from fully contributing to society and the economy at large. The second section will specify how and why it is so important for women to be fully participating actors to increase development.

            The primary factors that impede women from contributing fully to economic development are: un-waged labor, inequitable access to educational achievement, gender-based development and conflict/instability of the state.

Un-waged Labor

Women tend to do a large amount of work in the home and in society that contribute to the advancement of the family or the community. However it is often un-waged, meaning that the woman does not get paid for the work she is doing. The 1995 Human Development report was the first to assess and give a monetary value to this type of work on a global scale. It estimated that unwaged and under-waged work is worth $16 trillion internationally. Over two-thirds of this, or $11 trillion, is the non-monetized, invisible contribution of women.  This type of work includes, laundry, childcare and housework that are necessary for the functioning of the house and home life.


Women are still lagging behind men in terms of literacy level and academic access and equality. This inequality reflects in all aspects of a women’s life. “If a girl finishes elementary school and particularly if she has some secondary education, she marries later, ‘better’ and has fewer children. Her children are healthier and better educated. She often earns income, which is very empowering because it gives her added status. She also participates more in her community.” (Roberts, 37)

The SDG 4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. And SDG 5 is achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls focuses on improving this situation for women and girls. “Literacy is perhaps the greatest tool for empowerment. It changes the lives of individuals and of whole communities.” (Roberts, 37)

Gender-Based Violence

Another impediment to women’s equality and empowerment is violence. The WHO defines violence against children as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.” (WHO) Hyder and MacVeigh describe how discrimination and violence against girls begin before they are even born because thousands of female fetuses are aborted every year due to a preference for boys. (Hyder and Mac Veigh 82)

Population statistics also demonstrate that millions of girls are killed shortly after birth. Discrimination against girls persists into early childhood, when girls may be subject to neglect, malnutrition, and inadequate health care. Later in life, girls may experience genital mutilation/cutting, early marriage and other forms of gender-based violence. (Hyder and MacVeigh 82)

Violence against girls is related to access to quality education, as many of these issues can be addressed through awareness programs.

Cultural traditions sometimes reinforce or perpetuate gender-based violence. Practices such as female genital mutilation and having child brides. “Some 80-100 million women have undergone female genital mutilation and this practice continues in more than 28 countries, predominantly in Africa.” (Chandran et. Al. 123) Chandran et. Al. argue that women’s empowerment is the key to change these deeply rooted cultural beliefs. “Respecting cultural values while protecting children against violence poses a major ethical dilemma.” (Chandran et. Al. 123)

Poverty is another factor that affects the prevalence of violence. “More than 90% of all violence-related mortality occurs in LMICs.” (Chandran et. Al. 123)In 2005, UNICEF estimated that one billion children, or 50% of the world’s children lived in poverty. When the parents or family supporting children are living in poverty there is more instability, stress and substance abuse, all of which contribute to an increased likelihood of violence against children, particularly girls. “Poverty increases vulnerabilities to gender-based violence and violence against children. Ultimately, prevention of violence against children will hinge on addressing these wider socioeconomic inequalities.” (Chandran et. Al.123)


Violence against women and girls becomes heightened during conflict when sexual exploitation such as rape, mass rape, forced prostitution, forced termination of pregnancy and mutilation increases. “During humanitarian crises, and armed conflict in particular, the potential for gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation, increases.(Hyder, Tina and Mac Veigh, 81) Children, particularly adolescent girls, are vulnerable. This is true for girls and women not matter what their role within the conflict is. “Evidence shows that the majority of girls recruited into fighting forces are subject to sexual violence by members of the armed groups in which they serve.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 85)

Women and children are not just victims of the aggressors within a conflict but also from their own communities. “This is because conflict destabilizes community structures and social networks such as the extended family, schools or faith groups, leading to the loss of protective mechanisms that would normally contain and prevent violence.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 83) Conflict can further create vulnerabilities for children who may get separated from their families. Separation from family creates potentials for children to be kidnapped or abducted for human trafficking or fighting. “Most child soldiers are aged between 14 and 18. […] Some enlisted as a means to survival after family, social and economic structures collapse, or after seeing family member tortures or killed by government forces or armed groups. Others join up because of poverty and lack of work or educational opportunities.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 85) Sometimes girls enlist with fighting factions to escape abuse (physical or sexual) or violence they already experience in their homes. “Girl soldiers are frequently subject to rape and other forms of sexual violence as well as being involved in combat and other roles. Ins some cases, when they return they are stigmatized by their home communities as a result of their experiences.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 85)

How women can increase development

Women’s empowerment is necessary in order to overcome these issues that prevent women from participating fully in society and contributing to the economic development of their community. In addition, women’s access and control over resources, including finances influence their bargaining power within the household and society. In 2014 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development Initiative, which seeks to evaluate data and collect research on how to measure achievement of women’s and girls’ empowerment. It is an interdisciplinary effort to analyze how multi-sectoral projects “intentionally and effectively address gender inequalities and empower women and girls while improving outcomes in more than one sector.” (Impatient Optimists) Part of this initiative is trying to analyze the best way for women to be empowered financially, thus increasing their bargaining power within their circumstances. In the following sections I will details the types of micro-financing that have been initiated to try to increase women’s financial independence and thus move them and their families out of poverty and contribute to the economic development of their community.

Micro-financing is creating the availability of financial services to individuals or small groups who wouldn’t have easy access to them otherwise. There are several aspects of micro-financing, including, banking, micro-lending (also known as micro-lending or micro-borrowing) and savings assistance. The idea is that the provision of these services to the world’s poor will help individuals out of poverty, contribute to economic growth, and spur the creation of, or growth, of businesses.

The two schools of thought that exist today among MFIs [micro-finance institutions] can be summarized as: those focused on sustainability (or financial self-sufficiency) and those with a greater depth of outreach (or focus on assisting the poorest). The former is generally seen as having a greater emphasis on banking which also allows the MFI to offer the poor other financial services, such as savings, insurance and remittances and receive additional income streams from these products.” (O’Brien 105)


            These micro-efforts to improve the financial security for women alleviate poverty, provide more access to resources and reduce inequality between genders. This decreases women’s dependency on men and thus decreases the potential for violence against them. Women who can provide for themselves are less likely to stay in an abusive relationship. Women are also valued more in their relationships because they are producing something given external value. They are no longer providing un-waged labor. All of these effects empower women by increasing their respect in the community and productivity in the economy which in turn leads to a more stable community.


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