What does Women’s Empowerment Look Like To You? Five Responses from SSA

1.     Start with the home and everyone in it.

A senior leader within one of West Africa’s largest cocoa cooperatives was unequivocal that “women’s empowerment starts from the home”; and moreover, training and support services should be targeted at male and female smallholder farmers alike, if differentially. Traditionally, because men dominate some of the most physical and visible activities along the cocoa value chain, they receive the most focus in training. However, her organisation realised that it was fundamental to empower the women also. Failing to do so means that it is the men who control the finances, who control the land, and ultimately (seek to) control the women. 

2.    There’s freedom in financial planning

Women’s empowerment means economic freedom. Female smallholders in Cote d’Ivoire shared how important it is for them to support their homes with an income which is separate to that of their husbands. First, because their husbands concentrate mainly on cocoa, which is seasonal, and therefore, financially stressful, and second for their own financial independence. So for these women, it is important to them to grow food crops and sell in markets to ensure that they didn’t have to depend on their husbands for money.  

3.    Seeds to turn patriarchy on its head have already been planted

Female social entrepreneurs in Accra expressed how a woman’s ability to multitask and plan ahead in the home, equips her for business success. This is because “traditionally, it is the woman who is given ‘chop money’ by her husband… he who would go out to work and bring the money home, and out of that, the woman must plan how to pay for household expenses”. 

4.    Women must support other women

Close to 40% of social enterprises in Ghana are run by women, which is almost three times the number for mainstream businesses. However, speaking with social entrepreneurs in Kumasi and Accra, networking can be a challenge for these businesses because “it takes a certain amount of boldness that women don’t always have”. So, women leaders should help other women by opening the door for others to climb up.

5.    Policymakers, play your part 

44% of social enterprises in Kenya are run by women, a little lower than the number of traditional SMEs which are female-led (48%)[1]. Arguably, this has much to do with the concerted efforts for affirmative action including constitutional reforms[2]and public funding mechanisms specifically for women[3]

[1]United Nations Development Programme, Resilient Nations: Micro, Small And Medium- Size Enterprises