Hautala & Devan: Women on the Verge of an Economic Breakthrough
HELSINKI - In 2010, two Kenyan women, Jamila Abbas and Susan Oguya, were angered by newspaper reports about middlemen exploiting small farmers. In response, the two IT professionals launched M-Farm, a company that sends farmers real-time crop prices and market information via SMS, connecting them directly with food exporters and cutting out the middlemen. Now, less than two years later, M-Farm reaches more than 2,000 farmers in Kenya, including many female smallholders, and has won several international awards.
Abbas and Oguya represent a new class of female innovators. They have built a profitable business that empowers women, and that contributes to a more open and inclusive society. It is women like them - entrepreneurs who found companies, create jobs, and lead the way toward gender equality in the developing world - whom we will celebrate on the 101st International Women's Day on March 8.
According to the World Bank's World Development Report 2012, which focuses on gender equality, the world's 3.5 billion woman and girls still face an uneven playing field in education, employment, earnings, and decision-making power.
The report shows that gender inequality comes with a cost, while equality for women can create economic opportunities and boost efficiency and productivity. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that if women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education, and markets that men do, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.