By Sarah Ann Schultz, Marketing Communications Specialist
When Therese Mukabera received her first loan from Urwego Bank, HOPE’s microfinance institution in Rwanda, she decided to start a business burning bricks, weatherproofing them to withstand Rwanda’s heavy rains.
But as a woman attempting to enter a traditionally male profession, she found herself encountering roadblocks to formally starting her business. Day after day, Therese watched men around her receive the necessary permissions to form their enterprises. And day after day, she was passed over, hampered by the common belief that brick burning was men’s work.
Around the world, life is often harder for women than for their brothers, husbands, and sons. Women are less likely to be formally employed than men—and when they are, women are often paid less. Women shoulder greater responsibility for housework, food preparation, water collection, and childcare. Less than 20 percent of the world’s landowners are women. When natural disasters strike, more women die than men.
But here’s the good news: When women are empowered, things change.
Determined to start her business, Therese (pictured on left) kept showing up at the licensing office until one day, she was granted her business license—“by God’s grace,” she remembers now.
In the 20 years since that first loan, her business has spun off into multiple businesses that employ 57 people. And as her own situation has improved, Therese has turned her attention to serving those in her community—adopting orphans, providing health insurance for 150 people, and caring for elderly neighbors. She has also coached other women in business, convincing 80 women to join Urwego.
Therese tells women in her community, “As women, we now have a say. I encourage all my female friends to take a loan in Urwego so that they can build their dignity.”
Though women often face disproportionately hefty obstacles, the impact of leveling the playing field is disproportionately great. When women receive the same shot as their male counterparts, the change multiplies, rippling out from their own lives into the community around them. Research has shown that in countries where more women work, economies grow more rapidly. One study of over 200 countries from 1970 to 2009 found that for each additional year of education girls received, child mortality decreased by 9.5 percent. Another showed that companies that incorporated three or more women in senior management roles scored higher in organizational effectiveness.
Around the HOPE network, we see example after example of women like Therese, who, despite overwhelming obstacles, are persevering in love and exercising their God-given skills and abilities to help their families and community flourish.
Research from UN Women.
Header image features Gisele from the Republic of Congo. Read Gisele’s story here.