The majority of poor people in the world are
women and girls. In developing countries, where the single largest occupation for women
is agriculture, and increasingly in Africa and Asia in particular, women are doing the
bulk of the farming yet women are almost always locked out of ownership over the most important
asset… land. So it’s extremely important that we pay attention to who within the household
holds legal rights. The ugly truth is is that it is mostly men who are holding women back.
Men dominate the policy arena, men dominate the decision making at the community level,
at the household level, and we have to address the misconception that empowering women means
you’re disempowering men. That’s a myth. It’s a misconception. Empowering one empowers all.
Empowering women empowers men, children, families and ultimately the entire society. Women’s economic empowerment is, it’s not
a women’s issue, it’s a societal issue. If we’re going to address some of the largest
challenges we have, poverty, food security, we’re going to have to empower women. They
have been underutilized as social and economic change agents; they are the ones doing much,
if not the bulk of the farming so their relationship to land and to other productive resources
is critically important. So the way that we have gone about trying to fight against I
would say the opposition is to get men to understand two things: one, it doesn’t disempower
men, and two, it’s a societal issue, and that if you want to address this societal issue
you just have to empower women in the society. One of the lessons learned for us is that
when appealing to men about the importance of empowering women is that we often find
more success appealing to them in the interest of their daughters rather than their wives.
Most fathers do want the best for their daughters. When you appeal to them in the interest of
their daughters they find it I think somehow less threatening than appealing to them in
their interest of their wives. Even in the most patriarchal societies, men
understand that women are entrusted to do some of the most important work, that is caring
for children, raising children. So you can often appeal to them from where they are coming
from. I mean trying to shove some Western notions of equality down the throats of people
who see it as threatening isn’t always the most effective way, but if you appeal to them
in terms of what is the best for your community, what is the best for your broader society,
what is the best for your families, you often can address that resistance.