Economic literacy a critical tool for women

Date: January 1, 1970
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Economic literacy is emerging as a critical tool for facilitating women?s economic empowerment in Southern Africa.

Currently, projects that aim at women?s economic advancement in the region have mainly focused on micro finance and income generation.

“Most of these projects do not educate women about how the market itself operates, and how the functioning of the market brings about the economic subordination of women in specific ways”, noted Mohau Pheko an economist and coordinator of Gender Network and Trade in Africa.
Economic literacy programmes have a potential to contribute to the capacity building of women and development organisations in the region and thus enable them through training, capacity building and close accompaniment to gain better insight and influence women’s economic empowerment more effectively.
An audit by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC) on the implementation of section H (iii) of the SADC Gender and Development Declaration which focuses on promoting economic empowerment of women, shows that there is insufficient training in the region to provide women and the development NGOs with a critical insight on the gender aspect of the economy – the role and value of the women’s work in the economy.
The audit recommended the establishment of more economic literacy programmes to empower women with skills to engage with those who make and implement trade and economic policies, as well as strengthen women’s ability to advocate for policies that are socially sustainable and pro-development.
Gender experts in the region maintain that there is a broad base of women and development organisations in the region who can contribute to women’s economic empowerment through an enhanced understanding to economic issues as well as through networking capacities.
The economic literacy initiatives should aim at providing women and participating NGOs with insight on the role of women in the formal and informal economy while enhancing their understanding of the general economy through destructing the myth that economics is a man’s world in which women cannot take place as knowledgeable actors.
“Economic literacy gives us the skills necessary to understand how the national, regional and global economy operates and how we relate to these structures. Thus, through economic literacy it is possible to identify the structural causes of economic and social problems and come up with positive policy alternatives to alleviate the existing economic subordination of women,” said Pheko who also specialises in providing economic research, policy and literacy to parliamentarians, civil servants and women’s organisations.
Regional Director for the Southern Africa Office on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Nomcebo Manzini says economic literacy training would provide women with greater confidence to enable them contribute to the creation of alternative policies that are more gender friendly.
As women develop greater confidence with economic terms, concepts and issues, they become more comfortable in their economic activities and are more prepared to create alternative policies and instruments for transforming their status in the economic system, Manzini added.
The target for economic literacy initiatives in Southern Africa should be women, development organisations and stakeholders involved in economic policies affecting women like bilateral and multilateral development agencies, Planning and Finance Ministries, gender machineries, and the private sector including, workers’ organisations.
Knowledge sharing through production of simplified informational material on economic- related issues for the benefit of women traders who often do not get the opportunity to attend seminars where most of economic issues are discussed must be included in the economic literacy initiatives to be established.
The SADC Declaration on gender and development promises to promote women’s full access to, and control over productive resources such as land, livestock, markets, credit, modern technology, formal employment, and good quality of life in order to reduce poverty among women.
The skills gained in economic literacy trainings will provide new insights into women’s role and value in the informal and formal economy, and thereby increase their understanding of the general economy.
Barbara Lopi is the Head of Women in Development Southern Africa Awareness (WIDSAA), a programme of Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC)] This article is part of a special series of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service produced ahead of the SADC Heads of State summit in Lesotho from 17-18 August by the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance comprising ten NGOs that promote gender equality in the region.

One thought on “Economic literacy a critical tool for women”

Mampai Lebeko says:

Since this article was published in 1970. A lot has happened but the most critical one is lack of resource accessibility. There is agricultural fund but is not necessarily accesseable to women hence there is a need fo Women Development Bank as means to enable them to fully participate in I economic development

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