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The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates’, “Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World”, is a thoughtful and well-reasoned book that tackles gender inequality and brings awareness to the issue through   inspiring stories of women around the world. Gates discusses topics such as family planning, girl’s education, early child marriage, women in the workplace to name few. She shares with us compelling, data driven and anecdotal evidence of gender inequality and gives readers a glimpse of her personal journey for equality in her marriage.

Africa Development Promise (ADP) staff found the book inspiring not only because much of it aligns with our mission and vision but also because it validates the work, we do every day. Like Gates, we believe that “When you lift up women, you lift up humanity.”  The ADP team would like to share a few key takeaways with you to encourage you as we work together for that moment of lift.

The Silent Inequality: Unpaid Work:
A strong emphasis of the book is unpaid work that women around the world do that goes unrecognized. Known as the invisible hand, the unpaid work includes childcare, caregiving, cooking, cleaning, shopping and other errands. ADP knows that women spend a disproportionate time on unpaid work and in rural communities in developing countries the unpaid work extends to the time-consuming effort of fetching water, gathering wood and farming. These arduous activities leave little time for productive endeavors like education or income generating activities keeping rural women stuck in poverty. This is where ADP is making a positive difference by focusing on job creation through cooperative enterprises.  Our tagline is Building Pathways to Economic Independence. It is a fitting tagline that emphasizes the relevance of our work — ensuring that rural women in Rwanda and Uganda, where we work can earn a decent sustainable income to support their families.

Seeing Gender Bias: Women in Agriculture
ADP’s primary entry-point has been agriculture because over 70% of the rural women rely on subsistence farming for food security and employment. While advanced, more economic farming options are available, rural women are forced into subsistence farming because they lack access to resources such as land, credit, financial service, technical assistance and efficient technologies. Without these opportunities it is difficult to break the cycle of poverty. Gates points out that development practitioners often disregard women in agriculture assuming farmers are men and miss a huge development opportunity. She points to a 2011 study that found that women farmers in developing nations produce about 30% less crops than men, even though they are equally skilled. The study concluded that if women were empowered with better resources, their crop yields could match those of men. At ADP, we start with agriculture because it is what rural women know best.  We focus our resources on organizing and educating women on how to manage cooperative enterprises efficiently, by using improved agricultural technologies, getting higher yields, and harvesting and storing their crops until the price is right to sell.

Let Your Heart Break: The Lift of Coming Together
ADP promotes collective action because like Gates we believe that empowerment starts with women coming together. We have found that the act of coming together, connecting, sharing their stories, they gain a sense of belonging and together they have the courage to address their needs.  Gates shares several amazing examples of women coming together and affecting change but the one that hit close to home was her conversation with Liberian Peace Activist and Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee.  Last year, Gbowee was a keynote speaker at an ADP event that was co-hosted alongside A New Dimension of Hope. We invited Gbowee because she exemplified the power of women’s leadership and collective social action in the African context.  Through her work she led a women’s nonviolent peace movement that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. Gates uses Gbowee’s story as an example of women coming together and breaking down walls not only for themselves but for everyone. People often ask us – why this focus on women?  We highly recommend that you read this book because it shares examples of the massive gender disparities around the world and the need for inclusion, connection and empathy that leads to empowerment for all.

Please join Africa Development Promise as we summon a moment of lift for rural women in Rwanda and Uganda.

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