Women’s Empowerment Transforms the World
“Before, I was a wife who cowered before her husband and brought no income to the family. Now I am a community leader, an income earner and equal partner in my marriage. WE has helped me find my voice, my power, my community.”
– Rosalba, WE Member, Guatemala
Although in many countries women are achieving equality in health outcomes and primary school enrollment rates, the world has not seen the same kind of progress when it comes to gender equity in economic opportunity. Women consistently trail men in formal labor force participation, access to credit, savings rates, income levels, entrepreneurship rates, as well as in inheritance and ownership rights.
Evidence shows that putting economic resources in women’s hands is the best way to accelerate development and sustainably reduce poverty.
Women typically invest in their families and communities significantly more than men – spreading wealth and increasing the quality of life for themselves and their families.
PCI has made a commitment to ensure that all of our work includes an explicit focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Women Lead the Way to Community Development
Women Empowered (WE) is PCI’s proven and evidence-based social and economic empowerment platform that enables women to save money, develop financial literacy, and invest in income-generating activities. In addition to increasing women’s access to financial services, WE groups also focus on learning skills and building capacities, self-esteem, increasing access to information and resources, and promoting collective action and community organizing. This combination of economic and social empowerment positions them as leaders and decision-makers in their households and communities.
WE Changed Lemmy’s life
You’d be hard-pressed to find a time when Lemmy isn’t laughing or wearing a smile. Even so, the 51-year-old mother from Tanzania has known profound grief and loss.
After losing a teenage daughter to a sudden case of malaria and her husband to diabetes, Lemmy was left to raise eight children alone. Drought also wiped out their livestock and crops. Times were desperate, but Lemmy fought hard to take care of her family and use her skills as a seamstress to stitch together a better life.
After some time, Lemmy joined one of PCI’s WE groups called Tumaini. In Swahili, this means “Hope.” In addition to giving Lemmy a small loan to support her children’s education, the WE group also helped her start a small business raising and selling chickens and farming a small plot of land.
Today, she is a WE Community Facilitator who oversees eight WE groups that connect other women and men to life-changing activities and support. She is also involved with Solar Sister, one of PCI’s partners, and works as an entrepreneur to sell and promote the use of solar technology products.
How Do WE Groups Work?
WE is a women’s empowerment program through which women are trained to form self-organized and self-managed savings groups, each consisting of 15-25 members, to develop their individual empowerment and increase their access to financial resources, which is critical to sustained poverty alleviation. Group members meet weekly to make decisions that impact the group, participate in life-skills training, discuss issues of mutual interest and pool their small funds into a common fund. From that common fund, members take loans and repay with interest. Women take loans for small businesses, healthcare and education for their children, and home improvements. WE groups become a platform for members to not only raise awareness on important topics, but also to join together and take action to improve their lives and communities.
Always looking to improve the model, PCI is partnering with Gap Inc. to integrate their life skills curriculum known as P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement, Career Enhancement) to expand the ongoing social support and skilled-based training that women in WE groups desire as they grow on their path to personal empowerment.
To ensure sustainability, WE groups expect from the start to gradually operate more and more independently, becoming a self-sustaining group that lasts beyond the program timeframe.
How can you help?
Support PCI’s efforts to enhance health, end hunger and overcome hardship worldwide.
What Are Wealth Generation Pathways?
An exciting addition to the WE methodology includes increasing access to capital and training on basic business skills, and linkages to market-based job opportunities through PCI’s Wealth Generation Pathways approach.
We’ve seen in every corner of the world that when women are empowered and take on leadership roles, they are powerful agents of change in their communities who work together to enhance health, end hunger, and overcome hardship.
PCI has achieved remarkable results through the WE initiative. Today, there are more than 120,000 WE groups globally with more than $6.6 million saved, of which $6 million has been given in loans. Members of WE groups have experienced a 16% reduction in poverty, a 15% increase in their ability to feed their families, and a 17% increase in making household decisions. But this is only the beginning, as partner organizations and governments now recognize the power of WE. In India alone, we are on track to reach 15 million WE participants by 2022, impacting approximately 60 million family and community members. The WE initiative will have an impact for decades – and generations – to come.
Growing Through Partnerships
PCI currently implements WE in six countries, but a key strategy for future growth is to work through partners to expand WE to new communities.
One exciting partnership is with Burundi Friends International (BFI), who has piloted the use of the WE methodology in Burundi focusing on supporting youth and women coffee farmers. In 2018, a total of 12 WE groups were formed, whose 273 members saved over $5,500 and loaned more than $9,300. Although this is the first use of the WE methodology in Burundi, PCI and BFI plan to build on the success of the pilot and reach over 1,050 more people in the next year.
If your organization is interested in implementing Women Empowered, contact us at WEinfo@pciglobal.org.
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