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‘Gender is not about equality but equity’

By Sam Bickersteth, CEO

Challenging gender stereotypes at a global, national and individual level

For 50 years Opportunity International has been championing the role of women in poverty alleviation and we continue to challenge bias and stereotypes, as highlighted by International Women’s Day 2021’s call to challenge.

The majority of the 1.7 billion unbanked* adults in the world are women. Our work empowers women with financial education, training and digital financial services. We know that when we invest in a woman's business she not only lifts herself out of poverty, she also educates her children, creates jobs for her neighbours and transforms her community.   Today, 95% of our clients are women.

But how far has the world come in giving women choice over their financial matters?  
Is leadership of global financial institutions still in the hands of men? 
We are starting to see real change at this global level.  Kristalina Georgieva is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has recently been appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organisation - becoming the first woman and the first African to hold the position.

With changes to celebrate at a global level we’re asking, what does challenging stereotypes look like in practice for us?
Are the financial products and services we provide equally suitable and accessible to women and men?  
We recognise our ongoing responsibility to champion equality in our own workspace and for our partners. In Ghana our partner Sinapi Abi Savings and Loans won the Global SME Finance 2020 Award as Best Bank for Women Entrepreneurs demonstrating their focus and achievement in serving women. We work with them and support them in adapting to meet the needs of women and their communities, in particular – providing new digital technologies such as interactive voice messaging targeted at reaching more women.

I also want to introduce you to Christie, a gender specialist who has worked with us in Ghana for nearly 30 years.  

Christie teaches a group of women and men about gender inequality

Christie works for Opportunity Savings and Loans.  She works with women, and male community leaders, to challenge socio-cultural norms that discriminate harshly against women. She provides gender awareness training, financial literacy and digital financial education and explores innovative ways to bridge the digital gender divide.

Christie’s own story follows her mantra ‘gender is not about equality but equity.’ Starting her career as an Executive Secretary, Christie took her passion for community engagement and client training and enrolled herself in college. Today, she's the Head of Transformation with a MA in Business Administration and one of the few women in her Senior Management team. She’s working to make the same thing happen for thousands more women and girls like her.

Christie is just one of the women we work with who is challenging gender inequality on a daily bases. Read the inspiring stories of Agnes who uprooted her life to work in a refugee camp, Janet the young entrepreneur providing water to a whole community, and Irene who is changing the face of education in Uganda.

At Opportunity we are helping to transform the way in which financial institutions address gender and other inequalities. But the heart of why we exist is to enable women like Therese to lift herself out of poverty.

 Therese sits surrounded by her children at Nakivale Refugee Camps

"I don't want aid, I just want to have a business and provide for my children." 

We’re thankful for women like Kristalina and Ngozi in positions of high-level influence. Just as we are grateful for women like Christie in Ghana training and working to help others, and to our clients like Therese who are determined to carve out a better future for their children. We’re committed to continue filling the gap in provision of financial services for women like Therese so that we can end inequality at every stage of the financial system.

We celebrate our 50th year knowing that a lot has been done to address gender bias, and dedicated to be part of the change for future generations.

*Unbanked = people without an account at a financial institution or with a mobile money provider.

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