“Poverty is a global issue, and it wears a woman’s face.”

June 10, 2012

This summer, I have the privilege of travelling to Tanzania to carry out research for an international microfinance organisation. I’ll have a separate blog running, which I’ll link to closer to the time, with more information.

Microfinance is a fascinating topic, but it is something that I know very little about. However, in it’s simplest form, it is a way of tackling poverty and the thing that caught my attention was that despite making up 51% of the population, 70% of the world’s poorest are female [UN Women]. This is a completely disproportionate figure, unfortunately driven by the systematic discrimination women face in education, health care, employment and control of assets. Microfinance provides an interesting opportunity to empower women in developing countries. How? It is generally recognised that investing in women’s capabilities empowers them to make choices, which will contribute to greater economic growth and development.

Poverty is often discussed, as above, in the context of developing countries. But it disproportionately affects women all around the world, because women earn less than men do on a global scale. At a basic level, depression and physical illness rates rise as income levels decrease, and more women than men are diagnosed with depression and given prescriptions for anti-depressants. Women also work full work weeks and then take on the lion’s share of household duties, regardless of whether the other partner works – and of course, single mothers have to do it all. They are the ones that keep falling behind. In the United States, more than 40% of women who head families are now living in poverty.

I’m looking forward to meeting some of Africa’s 70% during my 10 weeks in Tanzania. Microfinance is like a candle flickering in the wind, going from the highs of the accolades to the lows of the suicides, and sometimes it feels impossible to know the truth about it all.

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