Why the focus of international development needs to start with women
With the rise of technology, social media and globalisation have arrived stories of poverty and international crises bringing us ever closer to the plight and struggle of others. Particularly those in the Developing World. And we have responded with generosity and concern.
In the early days of discussing ways to help the ‘poor’ came a focus on children. A stirring belief that supporting children was an investment into a country’s future that would be rewarded with better leadership. More representative of the poor. And more able to lead their country into prosperity and independence.
But now three decades later, few of the underpinning promises have been realised.
Instead, the growth in higher education, particularly graduate education, has led to a new kind of disappointment in the Developing World. A disappointment among the youth that so much effort and expectation is not resulting in professional appointments or political influence in countries without the growth and capacity to hire its graduating cohorts or the will to share power.
Donors are discovering that the cost of funding such endeavours continues to rise and rise until more and more sponsors are needed for each child to fund the direct costs and the infrastructure.
There is a disempowerment among parent generations with the disconnect being created in rural and urban poor communities with children investing in short term opportunities that are taking them away from their families and culture. There’s a realisation among mothers that such opportunities have impacted on a fundamental human wiring. An instinct in a woman to provide for her children. A desire to secure their future by providing a family’s basic needs: good nutrition, healthcare, shelter and education.
I was reminded of the power of this desire to provide for our own when visiting women in Rwanda. The women were members of Self Help Groups starting up small businesses now generating income allowing them to become independent and self-determining. I asked the question, “What do you dream for your children?”
The answers reminded me that they were mothers first. That just like me, they carried dreams for their sons and daughters. And they too felt enormous pride when helping these dreams to come true.
Josephine tells me, “Now I have my business, my children come to me. They come for advice and support. And I can help. I pay for their schoolbooks, uniform and school fees. They see me differently. I am part of their future.”
And in that one question asked over and over again, I was reminded why the focus needs to start with women. Women carry the hopes of their families and communities. They will invest all that they have into their children and others.
The emphasis of foreign support cannot remain on providing physical infrastructure and foreign–funded services. It needs to be on the empowerment of women and communities who carry the dreams day by day.
For with dreams comes responsibility as well as opportunity, and these women are waiting to grab both with two hands.Back to blog