“The empowerment of the world’s women is a global imperative. Yet despite important progress in promoting gender equality, there remains an urgent need to address structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment and full inclusion in economic activity.”

Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary-General, January 2016

Women suffer every day.

They suffer from injustice, physical and psychological violence, harassment, inequalities, gender gap, lack of opportunities, social biases, religious practices and so on. My dissertation’s aim is not to analyse the problems afflicting women’s world: instead, I would like to focus more on the possible solutions. I would like to analyse the positive and negative effects of these solutions, in order to understand what humanity must improve, appreciating what has already been done. From IABW, we want to affirm the idea that women’s empowerment is not only a crucial element in the lives of women and girls, but also an engine of well-being, economic growth and social cohesion for all communities. For these reasons, we would like to highlight the importance of explaining and spreading the concept of women empowerment all over the world, in both developed and developing countries.

Women economic empowerment deals also with the birth and evolution of microcredit, with particular reference to the development of this phenomenon in developing and developed countries. Microcredit is a theme in which the economic aspects are intertwined with the ethical and sociological ones, creating an instrument that has allowed many individuals to escape from poverty.

Microcredit was born in the mid-1970s in Bangladesh, in the village of Jobra, thanks to an intuition of the economist and banker Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2006.

Due to the first positive results, in 1976 Yunus decided to found the Grameen Bank (literally “village bank”), a bank based on principles of solidarity, mutual trust, participation and creativity, in order to grant small loans, the so-called “microcredits”, to the poorest. The sums lent were used by the beneficiaries for the purchase of tools, cows and other goods, all of which were necessary to achieve self-sufficiency. Microcredit is a very small amount of money lent to a person or group, especially in order to make it possible for people in poor countries to start businesses. This is also an economic tool, which allows people excluded from the main financial market to access it in another way.

Microcredit is a theme in which the economic aspects are intertwined with the ethical and sociological ones, creating an instrument that has allowed many individuals to escape from poverty.
Therefore, women economic empowerment could lead to the building of a stronger, advanced and more conscious society, in which everyone is economically independent and emancipated. Women’s empowerment is not only a crucial element in the lives of women and girls, but also an engine of well-being, economic growth and social cohesion for all communities, especially for Africa.

In the first definition of microcredit he elaborated, Muhammad Yunus focused mainly on the importance that this instrument would have for the promotion and protection of human rights. Yunus stated that “credit must be considered a human right, such as home and food; indeed, the first human right, the basis for putting men and women in a position to face life”. It is well known that poverty is still an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights both in developing countries and in developed ones. It is therefore important to identify new forms of aid that will counteract it and at best reduce it as much as possible. Especially in time of crisis, I think we should look at all this kind of “help” as a solution to get out of the recession. Microfinance is a response to this, promoting a genuine reform of traditional finance. A number of aspects are intertwined in the analysis of women economic empowerment. First of all, the economic aspects of course, because through microcredit, women obtain economic independence, which can lead to better life conditions. Secondly, ethical aspects played a fundamental role in women economic empowerment. I think we should be conscious of the fact that microcredit could be a promoter of economic and social well-being not only for all the women, but also for the society. Moreover, I hope that international organisations and institutions follow implementing and spreading it for the development of women economic empowerment and for the building of a prosperous and democratic society.

In conclusion, microcredit has modified the idea of finance by creating an instrument that can help developing countries to escape the abyss of poverty to the point that it can be considered a human right, capable to develop women economic empowerment. For these reasons, I truly believe in the implementation of microfinance as a means of emancipation for all the women in the world.

In the context of financial disparity, inequalities between women and men also assume the shape of differences in education, health care, rights, access to a wide range of essential resources and power imbalances in every area of life. Finally, we can consider women’s economic empowerment as one of the most important means to support gender equality, reducing poverty and improving well-being not only of women but also of children and society. Economic empowerment includes the involvement of women in economic activities and decision-making, it could also contribute to women independence. Now, more than ever, we need deep focus and care on these matters, in order to have aware and self- confident women tomorrow. We have the luck of living in the most advanced century (in technologies, medicine, human rights, law and so on), however it is not enough. On Earth, there is still war, dictatorship, violence and a lot to do. As an optimistic young student, I believe in progress and sustainability, and I would like to work and give my contribution to try to solve one of these severe problems. Only through the mutual collaboration and synergy between Italy and Africa it could be possible developing a stronger society.