This International Women’s Day, Let Us All Pledge To Do This Simple Thing For Gender Equality

Posted: March 5, 2016

As women, can certainly do our bit towards gender equality – charity begins at home, and you can do this for the domestic help who makes life easier for you.

According to the United Nations website International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

Why gender equality is important

Gender inequality carries economic costs. Estimates show that the Asia and Pacific region is losing $42 billion to $47 billion annually because of women’s limited access to employment opportunities, and another $16 billion to $30 billion annually as a result of gender gaps in education.

Theme for 2016

The theme for 2016, “Equality for women is progress for all” emphasizes how gender equality, empowerment of women, women’s full enjoyment of human rights and the eradication of poverty are essential to economic and social development. It also stresses the vital role of women as agents of development.

Why women’s employment is the first to suffer

The UN sponsored five-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2000 indicates that the economic and financial crisis in Latin America, South Asia and Eastern Europe in the 1990s hit the most vulnerable social groups hardest – women who faced increased burdens of unpaid work in response to reduction of public spending for health care and education.

Even though both women and men were affected by job losses, women were often laid off first, as men were traditionally considered to be the main wage earners.

According to this publication of ESCAP and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative aimed at fostering women’s entrepreneurship in the Asia-Pacific region, discriminatory social and cultural norms discourage women from establishing, or impede their efforts to expand, their businesses.

Women entrepreneurs are discriminated against by male suppliers and customers who prefer to engage with men. Social perceptions and attitudes vary, associated with variability in the prejudices and discrimination experienced by women entrepreneurs in rural and urban locations.

Also, women, who are often concentrated in vulnerable employment, are more likely to be unemployed than men, tend to have lower unemployment and social security benefits, and have unequal access to and control over economic and financial resources.

Many working women might not have had the monetary/social means for a better education. They too have a dream to give their kids a better education, a better job. Others may have a dream to start a small business of their own.

So what can be done?

I call for a balance in what we should be doing to alleviate some of these incongruities. Far from me to suggest that we all take off to villages, slums or refugee camps to do community service. Let us do something closer to home – as they say charity begins at home! Indecent amounts of money is spent at gala fund raisers which are a ‘must be seen’ at social events. A fraction of this really reaches the women in need.

Many of us run companies and hold positions of power. We are more educated, more experienced, and have access to information and expertise. Let look at our female employees, which includes our housemaids.

Start with helping your domestic help

What if we were to give them our ‘donation’ as a bonus or appreciation? As we are responsible for paying their salaries let us make it our mission to engage educate and empower these women that we interact with on a daily basis. It will be wonderful to mentor/guide these women to financial independence. We pay their salaries lets go a step further and give them the tools to create a better future for themselves, their families.

In order to integrate women into being financially independent, let us make the effort to understand their lives: the cultures from which they come, their roles in their families, any role that they might play as caregivers, and their financial needs and goals. My research tells me that these are sometimes major barriers to poor women’s financial stability. Many are sole supporters of their families; others have spouses who are drug addicts or alcoholics. Many have taken large loans to pay the agent who promised them a well-paying job, which they now have to pay back. There are too many issues that these women face.

Marital stress, looking after kids, working, neglecting their health, just keep going on pleasing the employer – I know many who have used up their leave and face deductions in salary if they take leave.

As employers/bosses we can make a difference, as these women don’t have the courage to speak up, ask for advice or guidance.

Simple, small, do-able things

Talk to them on the pros and cons of a savings plan. Help them get a medical and life insurance policy.  Get a simple fixed deposit just in their name. We can go a step further and save this money in an account on their sole name on a regular basis, cutting the amount from their salaries at source if required, so that the saving really happens.

Starting this Women March 8th 2016 let us pledge to

  • Touch, Move and Inspire
  • Engage, Educate and Empower
  • Step into the role of Mentor and Guide
  • Action, Achievement and Abundance

Published earlier here.

Image source: gender equality by Shutterstock.

A long time resident of the Gulf, Sandi has lived in Kuwait, Bahrain and now

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