Academic journal article American Journal of Entrepreneurship

Women's Economic Empowerment, Obstacles for Success: Experiences from Southern Ethiopia

Academic journal article American Journal of Entrepreneurship

Women's Economic Empowerment, Obstacles for Success: Experiences from Southern Ethiopia

Article excerpt

Introduction

Poverty and urbanization are highly gendered, with women constituting the poorest of the poor in most developing countries. For example, the persistent burden of poverty; unequal access to resources and participation in economic policy making; inequality in access to education, skills development and training; unequal access to health and related services; and inequality with men and in the sharing of power and decision making are some of the major challenges women face (Stevenson & St-Onge, 2005). Moreover, literature on gender and development argue that development is often subjected to male bias (Kabeer, 1994; Moser, 1993).

Realizing the poor status of women worldwide, international conferences held in cities such as Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi, and Beijing over the last three decades. These conferences have put "gender issues firmly on the development agenda, but economic growth and modernization is not gender neutral " (Momsen, 2004, p.5). This is because the experiences of different states and regions show that economic prosperity helps gender equality, but some gender gaps are resistance to changes (Momsen, 2004). In light of this, the 1995 Human Development Report was devoted to "the relentless struggle for gender equality" based on the argument that "human development, if not engendered, it is endangered" (UNDP, 1995, p.11).

Women's inclusion into micro finance** [dagger][dagger] programs have been triggered by several factors. These include the need to enhance women's productivity, recognition to women's income to the family welfare, and women's high loan repayment experience. FAO (2010) revealed that women secure access or ownership of assets (i.e., land and livestock) would enhance women's decision-making power within the household. However, women's participation in economic, social, political, and cultural agendas remains a challenge. In Ethiopia, gender inequality and dis-empowerment have been rampant in all parts of the country attributable to the socio-cultural exclusions and economic problems prevailing in the society. For instance, a study by Berouk (2004) indicated that gender inequality in Ethiopia has been the result of many interrelated factors. The same study classified the preventive factors into four broad categories such as: (i) cultural influence; (ii) institutional and political commitment in gender issues; (iii) women's access to basic social services and resources; and (iv) women's self-esteem and low participation.

According to Emebet (2008), women's proportion in Ethiopian civil service sector accounted for 32.17 % in 2002. She further indicated that very small numbers of women (10.2 %) were hired in professional and scientific areas. Although there have been initiatives on women's affairs by different governmental and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) at different levels, women have been facing political, social, and cultural challenges that undermine their human worth and dignity. They suffer from economic poverty, social discrimination, political disenfranchisement, and cultural subjugation[dagger][dagger]. Similarly, women in Arba Minch town, face the realities of oppressive and male dominant socio-cultural systems that influence their overall status in the society. Arba Minch, the focus town of this study, is characterized by a situation in which many of women lack access to basic needs, they have no or marginal role in the decisions over the use of resources in the household, as well as their limited involvement in those decision making institutions and processes that directly or indirectly affect their lives. The interest to undertake this study emanated from the researchers practical experiences regarding the study area and the micro finance program[double dagger][double dagger] that aims at, women's empowerment.

Many of the studies concerning Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs)§§ have concentrated their efforts in assessing the impact of micro finance programs on poverty reduction. …

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