A lack of access to credit prevents women from reaching their full economic potential. Photo: Oriane Zerah for Action Against Hunger, India.
16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE
From November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and until December 10th, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is a global campaign to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
Violence against women is one of the biggest causes of injury and death to women worldwide, causing more deaths and disability for women ages 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war. In other words, it’s an epidemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
However, violence against women goes beyond the physical. Violence can be physical, sexual, psychological. Violence can include limiting autonomy, decision-making power and access to certain resources.
For these 16 days, we are highlighting 16 different types of violence that women and girls experience beyond the physical.
You can take action against gender-based violence:
Day 14 – a lack of access to credit and financial services
Lack of credit for women
Credit and financial services play an increasingly important role in the work we do, especially when it comes to women’s empowerment. Women currently make up 40% of the workforce, and also own around 30-37% of the worlds Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing markets. Women who own SMEs are now in greater need of small and affordable loans to successfully grow their businesses.
Unfortunately, women tend to have less or no access to credit and financial services. Some financial institutions have been known to discriminate against women, especially those in poverty, believing that they are less likely to pay back their loans. For households that are led by women, they are less likely to take out loans, and find themselves trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty. Even if they do have access to small loans, women still have a lack of access to other financial services, such as insurance and saving accounts. On top of this, women often borrow credit, but on behalf of their husbands. This is because of the imbalance in decision-making power, where male family members continue to control the way that money is used within households. Without proper credit services that target women, gender-based barriers will continue to exist both at home and in the business environment.
How important is credit?
Credit is essential for achieving gender equality and reducing violence against women. Access to small loans would give women the ability to run their own SMEs and to generate their own source of income. It would mean more independence and a greater say in household decisions. It is not only important to provide credit, but also to educate women on how to make use of financial services available to them. This would give them the knowledge of how best to spend their loans and income, instead of depending on their husbands to make the decisions.
Action Against Hunger acknowledges the importance of credit, even during humanitarian disasters. During the 2014 drought in Guatemala, we worked on providing accessible local health services, as well as diversifying sources of income through the provision of credit. With nearly 1.5 million people living in the dry corridor in Guatemala, credit is needed to buy and bring in food from other regions. In the long term access to credit is also facilitated for women in mother-to-mother groups, to make sure women have equal access to resources within the community.
Ending violence against women is key to ending hunger.