When I first heard it said that poverty is sexist, I thought, “Here goes more 21st century sound bites phrased in a manner that draws a calculated reaction.” Only after deliberate research and explanation from my more enlightened peers did it make sense. Consider this excerpt from a World Health Organization report, ‘Women’s economic, educational and health status is fundamental to human survival. Women are the main conduits for health knowledge, the main providers of health care and the primary carers of children.’1
During his visit to Kenya, President Obama gave a speech where he noted and denounced the treatment of women as second class citizens. Quoted verbatim, President Obama said, ‘Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allowing them to maximise their potential is doomed to fall behind in a global economy… If you educate girls – they grow up to be moms – and they, because they’re educated, are more likely to produce educated children.’2
Speaking to Kenya’s situation, it is evident that women and mothers bear the burden of raising families and yet are left out of decision and policy making. This is a trend that is true in government, churches and communities, even within families. The testimony of a street child featured in this blog tells of a poor, struggling mother who refused for her children to beg in the streets; even punishing them when they did.3 It shows dignity and bravery in the daunting task of raising children without help from government or the men paternally responsible.
Nine times out of ten, the fate of a mother ties with the fate of her children. If she cannot own property and is consequently thrown out of her home; her children become destitute as well. Women that are denied an education have fewer choices, fall into early marriages and are likely to not value education for their children. On the other hand, women who are given opportunities become mentors and inspire hordes of young girls to dream bigger.
The 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit saw over 100 million shillings collected as investment; ten million of which will go toward setting up Women Entrepreneurship Centers, an American sponsored initiative from which Kenya will benefit from. Here in Kenya, the government had set up the Uwezo Fund, an interest free fund geared to the economic development of women and youth.
These are positive steps that show an understanding of the path to economic success. Hopefully societal views are on their way to changing. The reality of it all is that an empowered woman affects society in manners other persons cannot. The parallelism between children’s and women’s development cannot be understated; there’s a direct correlation between advancing the rights of women and that of children.