SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE FOR WOMEN
SYED ALAMDAR ALI
Hailey College of Banking & Finance Lahore
Aug 18 - 24, 2008
The success that women have achieved over the last 20 years has not been shared equally among all women. Some women have been successful in accessing higher education and higher-paying jobs that have contributed to their economic independence. Others continue to face particular challenges in achieving economic independence and ensuring their financial security, especially if they have dependent children and/or other dependants or have had disrupted labor force participation. These challenges are long-term issues that slow progress toward economic equality.
According to Women's Economic Independence and Security published in Canada in the year 2001 the concepts of independence and security are closely interconnected and they may have particular meanings for individuals based on their life experiences and aspirations. In the context of gender equality and for the purpose of this framework they are generally understood in the following ways:
Economic independence refers to a condition where individual women and men have their own access to the full range of economic opportunities and resources, including employment, services, and sufficient disposable income, in order that they can shape their lives and can meet their own needs and those of their dependants. It recognizes that women are economic actors who contribute to economic activity and should be able to benefit from it on an equal basis with men. This concept is understood as one that complements, rather than excludes, the importance of interdependence within families, communities and society. Other terms that have been used to describe the concept of independence are "autonomy" or "self-sufficiency".
Economic security refers to the ability of women and men to plan for future needs and risks and an assurance that basic needs will be met. Building security could include gaining financial knowledge or new employment skills, having insurance against loss or adversity and being able to save in various ways for retirement or for a child's education. When individuals are not in a position to cover their own basic economic needs themselves, government social programs and income support play a significant role in ensuring economic security.
Women often confront barriers when attempting to start entrepreneurial ventures. For example, they may not be able to access the capital needed to start a business because they lack satisfactory credit or assets to use as collateral for a loan. Also, they may not have the information and resources they need to develop an effective business plan. All such factors hinder economic independence and security. According to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. United Nations, 1996 the following are some examples of such economics hindrances:
* Women face barriers to full equality and advancement because of such factors as their race, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religion or disability, because they are indigenous women or because of other status. Many women encounter specific obstacles related to their family status, particularly as single parents; and to their socio-economic status, including their living conditions in rural, isolated or impoverished areas.
* Access for and retention of girls and women at all levels of education, including the higher level, and all academic areas is one of the factors of their continued progress in professional activities. Nevertheless, it can be noted that girls are still concentrated in a limited number of fields of study.
* Discrimination in education and training, hiring and remuneration, promotion and horizontal mobility practices, as well as inflexible working conditions, lack of access to productive resources and inadequate sharing of family responsibilities, combined with a lack of or insufficient services such as child care, continue to restrict employment, economic, professional and other opportunities and mobility for women and make their involvement stressful. Moreover, attitudinal obstacles inhibit women's participation in developing economic policy and in some regions restrict the access of women and girls to education and training for economic management.
* Although many women have advanced in economic structures, for the majority of women particularly those who face additional barriers, continuing obstacles have hindered their ability to achieve economic autonomy and to ensure sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their dependents.
* Women still also perform the great majority of unremunerated domestic work and community work, such as caring for children and older persons, preparing food for the family, protecting the environment and providing voluntary assistance to vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and groups. This work is often not measured in quantitative terms and is not valued in national accounts.
* The low proportion of women among economic and political decision-makers at the local, national, regional and international levels reflects structural and attitudinal barriers that need to be addressed through positive measures. Governments, transnational and national corporations, the mass media, banks, academic and scientific institutions, and regional and international organizations, including those in the United Nations system, do not make full use of women's talents as top-level managers, policy makers, diplomats and negotiators.
* Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women's full advancement.
Despite all above women's share in the labor force continues to rise and almost everywhere women are working more outside the household, although there has not been a parallel lightening of responsibility for unremunerated work in the household and community.
In addition, many non-traditional resources may provide assistance to women entrepreneurs in turning their business ideas into operating businesses. Such non-traditional resources include:
* Microboards consist of family members, advocates and others who come together to support a particular individual's self-employment goal.
* Microenterprise organizations include capital development corporations, community and faith-based organizations, micro loan funds and venture capital firms that offer access to capital and business planning expertise.
* Business incubators are physical facilities that assist small businesses in getting started by providing office space, shared meeting rooms and necessary computer and other equipment such as phones, fax machines, and copiers.
* Individual Development Accounts (IDA) be developed that can help certain people save to buy a home, further education or start a business.