A well-known Ghanaian Scholar, Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey (1875-1927), one of the greatest African educators of the 19th century, had a popular quote attributed to him, thus: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” It implies that empowering a woman economically and through education, often create rippling effects that positively affect communities in bigger and more endearing ways.
In the olden days and in many parts of the world then, especially in Africa, women were treated as second-fiddle to men. They were seen lesser and inadequate to perform certain functions in society. There were laws, rules, regulations, practices and prejudices against women. Many of them were married off as children, many were denied education, some excluded from spiritual experiences and rites, others prevented from engaging in self-sustaining entrepreneurial activities that would empower them economically. This was the case, until the talk about women empowerment took centre stage in global conversations.
The United Nations has been consistent in pursing the gender equality and empowerment agenda. In 2015, the UN set the Sustainable Development Goals and dedicated Goal 5 to Gender Equality and Empowerment. The Goal stated: "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls".
Empowering women is a critical component of achieving gender equality. Empowering women includes establishing deliberate intents and making conscious efforts at increasing a woman's sense of self-worth, her decision-making ability, her access to opportunities and resources, her power and control over her own life, removing inhibitions that limit her progress and her ability to effect change in her community and beyond.
Women have come a long way and there is a lot of achievements to celebrate about the wonderful milestones that women across the world have chalked. Across many spheres of life, all over the world, women are shining. They are breaking age-old patriarchal doctrines and raiding what was traditionally considered to be male domains. On December 7, 2021, Forbes announced its 18th annual ranking of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, on that list, are top CEOs and iconic entrepreneurs, heads of state, pioneer philanthropists and policymakers who are pushing the frontiers of empowerment, leading the way and changing the narratives.
Many global brands such as QNET, have consistently advocated for women economic empowerment. Further, the company’s business model is women-friendly. In fact, the CEO of the company is a woman who worked assiduously through the ranks from a Customer Service Personnel to the top of the ladder as the Chief Executive of the company.
The story of women’s hardwork and resolve to break the statuo quo is becoming more beautiful every day. According to the International Finance Corporation, globally, women are now starting businesses at a faster rate than men. More than 250 million female entrepreneurs are powering economies, creating jobs and new income opportunities, reducing poverty, and increasing equality where it is needed most. A report by Deloitteconcludes that women now own as much as one-third of all enterprises worldwide.
Despite progress in recent years, many women still face significant barriers to starting their own businesses. These include a lack of capital, time, and the needed skills. An industry that subverts these barriers is direct selling: The World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) reported that in 2020, a staggering 74.4% of direct selling representatives are women – a trend that that is unsurprising, considering the nature of the industry. More women around the world are making the decision to turn direct sales into an opportunity for personal success as it leapfrogs the aforementioned barriers faced by female-led ventures in the modern world while still offering balance for women seeking fulfilling careers, without compromising traditional familial values or personal growth.
According to the American Express 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women owned 39 percent of all private US firms, but those businesses contributed to just 4.2 percent of revenues. These figures demonstrate the necessity to reassess support for female entrepreneurs. The support for women should start by providing girls with courage and confidence as well as business and technology-focused education to enable them become very creative and sharpen their leadership abilities.
While celebrating women all over the world for their courage and achievements on the world stage, at the helms of affairs in organisations, as leaders in their sectors, including women in the obscure corners of their communities across the globe, striving to change narratives, Malou T. Caluza, QNET’s CEO, and a vocal advocate for women in leadership, encourages women to keep flying the banner of empowerment high in the sky. “Women are responsible for many great achievements in the world, both on the big global stage and at the family level. I celebrate you all. I urge you to strive for more economic empowerment, thereby liberating yourselves and empowering you to do more for yourselves, your family, community and the world at large.”
She commended women entrepreneurs and noted that: “The success of direct selling today is the result of the hard work of women. Women pioneered the hugely popular ‘Tupperware parties’ and broke gender stereotypes to build the multi-billion industry that we know today. Direct selling would not see its current success without the hard work and passion from women. Even though I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years, it has never ceased to inspire me when witnessing women from all walks of life demonstrate passion, tenacity, and drive and emerge feeling empowered when their entrepreneurial journey brings them success.”
When women are economically empowered, they drive growth, reduce income inequality, and contribute to building a more inclusive, robust economy for everyone. Women have become the bedrock of our society; when they are empowered, our society is equally empowered.