Amina Mohamed, founded Cameras For Girls to change the lives of girls and women in Uganda, through the power of photography.
Female empowerment has been a topic of conversation among world leaders, the private sector, philanthropists, and the media. But what does female empowerment mean? What’s the current state of affairs regarding women around the world? And how can each of us help to make an impact on women in developing countries? These are just some of the questions we’ll address in today’s post.
Why should we care?
While women make up half of the world’s population, their numbers are disproportionately low in positions of power. More than 50% of university graduates are female in many countries, but fewer than 5% of technology startups have a woman on board as an executive or founder. According to a recent Goldman Sachs report, gender diversity may correlate with positive financial performance. In other words, companies with gender diversity at senior levels will most likely show better financial results than those without any women at all.
Furthermore, when you educate a girl, you change the world. As Maya Angelou put it:
“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.”
What are the obstacles?
Many developing countries don’t have access to large internet networks, so they can’t use digital media as readily as people in developed nations. While that makes it harder for women, even women with large tech networks are at a disadvantage compared to men. Research shows that female-founded startups receive just 2% of VC funding and 15% of angel funding; those figures rise to 6% and 19%, respectively, if at least one co-founder is male. (Similar findings were true for startup acquisitions.) Women also reportedly deal with sexism from coworkers: A survey from Babson College found that 70% of women surveyed had experienced some form of discrimination or harassment.
Specifically in Uganda, we see through our Cameras For Girls program that a woman is paid 17% less than her male counterpart, even with further education. Worse, a woman is expected to have a camera and know how to use it to get a job as a journalist, but her male counterpart does not have this same requirement—screams of gender disparity.
Amina and Elizabeth discussing her photos at CFG workshop in Kampala, Uganda
Barrier 1 – Gender Inequality
Gender inequality is one of the most significant issues facing girls across all developing countries. For example, Pakistan has a reported literacy rate of 70%, while its male literacy rate is 84%. Many factors can impact these numbers, including gender-based discrimination. If there’s no societal pressure to pursue higher education or seek employment, it’s difficult for women to improve their status relative to men. As people become more educated, they can also make better economic decisions like spending money. By giving females access to resources like education and work opportunities, we can address some of the root causes of poverty globally.
Barrier 2- Lack of Education
Studies have shown that one of the most significant barriers to female empowerment is a lack of education. Girls’ education is often limited, especially in developing countries where they are more likely to be forced into child labour or marriage early. This not only hinders their development as an individual, but society at large suffers because of it – an uneducated woman can’t contribute to her family’s income, which reduces household income overall. It’s important to encourage girls (and boys) at every level of education to reach their full potential by creating opportunities for them wherever possible – namely, giving them access to technology! An educated woman has greater earning potential and a stronger voice both inside her home and out – empowering women is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Olivia learning how to operate the camera at the Cameras For Girls workshop in Uganda
Barrier 3- Physical Limitations
Women who live in developing nations will find it hard to grow their businesses, as they are restricted by what resources are available to them. If a woman does not have access to technology, she cannot connect with clients or other businesses. She may not have access to computer software or hardware to set up her website. At home, if women do not have access to both technology and digital media devices such as computers or mobile phones, they will be limited in running their business. Without education on how these technologies work specifically, women are left to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs because of physical limitations.
Recently, one of our students applied for a job in communications, where she would have access to a computer and other digital tools to do her job. Not only is she adept at photography after taking our Cameras For Girls training, but she is an excellent graphic designer. Sadly, the job was offered to her with the requirement to pay for it with sex or money. She turned it down and was stuck in a low-paying job, where she struggled to pay for the necessities to feed herself and her children.
We at Cameras For Girls could purchase a computer for her that would enable her to market her skills and be the master of her destiny. She is now making a wage that allows her to support herself, her children and her family.
Sadly, many females in the developing world don’t receive these positive outcomes without the enormous personal sacrifice of their bodies and their self-esteem.
Female Empowerment Is One Solution
Female empowerment plays a massive role in societies worldwide. We have to start from the ground up. We can start by empowering women from childhood to become CEOs, CFOs, world leaders, basic trailblazers in every field. If a girl is told from a young age that she can be anything she wants to be as long as she puts her mind to it, whether journalists or world leaders or engineers, we can help ensure that there will be more female role models in our society.
There are many ways to empower females in the physical and digital media world, some of which will be easier than others. Take UN Women’s HeForShe campaign as an example. It is an excellent platform for men to support female empowerment and gender equality.
Another is our Cameras For Girls program, which teaches photography and business skills to females in Africa and empowers them to find full-time work in the journalism field.
Students out practicing their photography @Amina Mohamed Photography
Providing Microloans, Grants and Seed Funding Opportunities for Female Entrepreneurs
If you want to help empower females worldwide, look into microloans, grants or seed funding opportunities for female entrepreneurs. Several organizations assist women in starting their own business, with initiatives like Grassroots Business Fund providing capital for female-owned companies who live in rural areas or developing countries. Those looking to impact women around them can also donate time through mentorship programs that give other women a chance to learn from your expertise.
While women are playing a more prominent role in society than ever before, there’s still progress to be made. In the physical world, females are still underrepresented in politics and finance. In contrast, particularly in online journalism, the number of women working in the field remains disproportionately low in the digital world. In both cases, it’s essential to address the situation with deliberate action. Because if we don’t continue to push forward, nothing will change.
Instead of just encouraging girls and young women to dream big, we need to create programs that give them an avenue for growth. And instead of relying on privileged knowledge or connections alone, we should consider how the developing world can help even the playing field.