One of the many seeds that grew into Bambootique was when I read in one of my MBA’s economic textbooks that, when women have work, they are far more likely than men to spend their income on improving their children’s future – food, education, healthcare, clothing, housing, etc. That was a lightbulb moment for me, although it was several years later before that seed grew into an actual business. Still it was my own moment of empowerment, when I knew that I could do something profound that could change the lives of women and, in turn, help those women offer their children a better, brighter future.
A few days ago the New York Times ran a beautiful and concrete article on the very topic of eliminating poverty in the developing world through women. The authors, a married couple who co-wrote the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, talk about how when women have work they are less likely to be abused by their husbands because they are seen as valuable rather than as a burden. They provide employment for their poor neighbors. They invest in their children’s educations. And as a result they boost their countries’ overall economies both now and, hopefully, in the future through their children.
The authors conclude that foreign aid as a blanket solution to poverty is inadequate. Shoving money at problems doesn’t necessarily get rid of them and, in many cases, makes problems worse. However the authors point specifically to microfinance (giving small loans, mainly to women, to help them start or expand their own businesses) as one aspect of foreign aid that is most successful. Be sure to check out this well-written, well-researched article for more insights on the power of women to change their own lives.
95% of Bambootique’s artisans are women and many are micro-loan recipients through local lending programs. I don’t turn away men who make great products. But my vision is to empower women, knowing that men tend to have greater access to markets and other ways to earn an income than their female counterparts. I’m proud, in my own small way, to be part of such a movement. And I can’t wait to read Half the Sky, which I already have on hold at the library!