March 8 is International Women’s Day, where we celebrate women and raise awareness for what still needs to be done in order to empower women of the world.
The crafts sector is uniquely placed to empower hundreds of thousands – if not millions - of women living in low-income countries. Craft is the second largest employer in many developing economies (after agriculture), and the majority of craft producers are women. It can be done from the privacy of the home, allowing even women from very conservative communities to participate. Craft production does not require literacy or having had access to formal education, which is crucial given that 70% of the 60 million children who do not go to school today are girls. Instead, craft uses skills passed on from mothers to daughters.
When women earn money there is a proven trickle-down effect – their family and community thrive. With growing demand for beautiful and handmade products, craft is one of the greatest opportunities for women, and has the potential to lift many into the global economy and out of poverty.
Statistics show that where women’s participation in the labour force grew the economy grew fastest and experienced the largest reduction in poverty rates and conflict. Furthermore, it is clear that when women own property and earn money from it, they have more bargaining power at home – something that was also evident from a study we were part of, conducted on 1000 women in the formal Afghan economy in 2012.
Buying a piece of craft that is ethically sourced is more than a purchase – it is an investment in a woman and her future! So if you want to help empower women in hard places – this is a good place to start!