“A nation’s competitiveness depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its female talent. To maximize its competitiveness and development potential, each country should strive for gender equality—i.e. to give women the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as men. In the current global financial and economic crisis, it is more vital than ever…” – Laura D. Tyson, University of California
So how exactly will investments in girls and women help rebuild the global economy? If women are afforded their capacity to be actors in the economic world, will women enhance, grow and build economies?
Eliminating gender inequality and ensuring the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls have proven exponential effects, such as improving children’s health and education, which in turn contribute significantly in the development of communities and countries. In Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright cites the economic benefits of investing in women, pointing out that women reinvest 90% of their income in their families and communities, compared only 30% to 40% for men.
The benefits of protecting and promoting women’s rights, ending discrimination and providing critical health services and information are well known, documented and substantial:
• In Sub-Saharan Africa, gender inequalities in education and employment suppressed per capita growth by nearly 1% per year between 1960 and 1992. Scholars estimate that this lost income would have doubled economic growth in the region.
• In Ghana, if women and men had equal land rights and tenure security, profits per hectare would nearly double.
• Women in Cameroun spent as much as three-quarters of their income on food for the family, whereas men only spent 22%
It is hard to argue that educational and employment opportunities for women not only benefit families but increase the economic efficiency of individual countries, whether developed or developing. But we must also remember that the status of the woman globally, both in advanced and developing economies, must drastically improve to enable the women make the contributions that have been attributed to their potential above. Only healthy women whose human rights are protected can be productive workers and full participants in their country’s political processes. Only when women are healthy and empowered can they raise and educate healthy children. These are the building blocks of stable societies.
So what should the world do to uphold the health and rights of women and girls?