By Jessica Kutz, Field Intern
International Women’s Day isn’t just about women; it’s about all those who benefit when women succeed.
March 8th is International Women’s Day – a day that honors the achievements of women around the world, but also a day to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to empower women and achieve global gender equality.
The last six weeks I have worked in Guatemala as a field intern for Friendship Bridge. Working directly with clients and hearing their stories has given me an opportunity to reflect on women in the world, and specifically here in Guatemala.
John Hendra, the UN Women Deputy Executive Director of Policy and Programme gave a speech titled “Feminization of Poverty in Rural Areas.” In this speech he describes rural poverty as disproportionately affecting women due to several key factors, including access to health and reproductive tools, and access to productive resources.
Due to limited health and reproductive tools, women not only face higher mortality rates during childbirth in rural areas, but they also bear the economic burden of raising more children than they can support. Friendship Bridge aims to provide tools for effective family planning as well a culturally sensitive training to its clients. In a recent interview conducted with Yolanda, one of our clients, she talked candidly about what this lack of family planning means for women in her community. “There is a woman who lives near to me who has six children. This woman suffers…she only buys corn and only drinks hot water with her tamale, she doesn’t have enough to eat. I tell her, “You need to stop having children so you can take better care of yourself fand the six children you have.'”
Lacks of access to productive resources means women have less control of family finances. If a woman is withheld from contributing to the economic wellbeing of her family, exiting extreme poverty is very difficult. If more women have access to the resources that Friendship Bridge provides via microcredit and educational training, families as a whole would have a better chance at sustainable futures.
Many of Friendship Bridge’s clients work in the agriculture and artisan sectors. With access to loans they are able to produce more crops, livestock, and products and increase their earnings for their family. During the interviews I conduct, most women mention wanting to help their partner support their family or wanting to provide a better future for their children.
The majority of Friendship Bridge clients have little or no formal education. Yet in 100% of the interviews I have conducted, our clients have cited the education of their children as their main motivation for growing their businesses. If we can continue to minimize the barriers that our clients experience and empower them to succeed, we can help them prepare the next generation of women and men to create a more equal society.