Many cultures throughout history placed women and men in different niches. Traditionally, the man is the bread winner. He does the hard labor. He has a job outside of the home. He fits the gender role of a strong, masculine character. In these cultures, the woman stays at home. She has children and raises them. She cooks and cleans and is the home maker. Her gender role is the delicate one who needs protecting. Unfortunately, women have never been able to completely shed this stereotype. The glass ceiling is a common metaphor to describe the invisible barrier limiting women from reaching as high as men.
One of the places where women face many struggles is Kenya. The Foundation for Sustainable Development reports that agriculture provides 60 percent of Kenya’s income, and women do most of the agricultural work in the country However, women earn very low wages if they earn any at all. The foundation says only 29% of those making a wage in Kenya are women. This causes severe problems because nearly 40 percent of households are run solely by women and “because of a lack of fair income, nearly all these homes suffer from poverty or extreme poverty.” This video from the World Bank discusses men and women in the labor force in Kenya:
The problem is most apparent in developing countries like Kenya where women do not have the financial means to be successful. One way to help women break the glass ceiling is by providing them opportunities and resources. Kavita Kulkarni, Managing Director of Shalmala Finance in India, runs a company that specializes in microfinancing. This system allows institutions to lend smaller amounts of money to clients with very low, if any, interest rates. The concept behind microfinancing is to give low-income individuals access to financial services they could not previously afford. By loaning, providing insurance and protecting against risks on smaller levels, these individuals can start from nothing and develop their own business. Ms. Kulkarni said that most clients who use microfinancing are women looking to create their own path. The basics of microfinance are explained in this video:
I would argue that microfinance loans could be exactly what women in developing countries need to be successful. Success is never guaranteed, but these small loans are allowing women to start their own businesses and become their own providers. They are no longer sitting around after being rejected by banks. They can get microfinance loans with low interest rates and sell goods or provide services. These small loans could break the poverty cycle for many families if they correctly harness their potential.