What does economic security look like for women? | ActionAid UK

Daphne Jayasinghe

Women’s Rights Policy Adviser

At ActionAid, we're all about bringing women together in communities to discuss their needs and demand their rights. So we’d like to celebrate an inspiring woman taking a stand for women’s economic security in her community and share the ideas of some of the leading thinkers and decision makers on gender equality.

Aitu Limbu, President of Kafle Women's Group in Okhre, Tehrathum District, Nepal
Aitu Limbu, President of Kafle Women's Group in Okhre, Tehrathum District, Nepal

Women coming together to demand their rights

36-year-old Aitu Limbu from Nepal is one of many inspiring women who are taking a stand in their communities and bringing other women together to talk about the challenges they face, such as how to balance their work in the home and paid work.

Aitu is a member of five local community groups, including a mothers’ group, a savings group and the Kafle Women’s Group, who voted for her to be President. By participating in local women’s organisations, such as an ActionAid supported Reflect Circle, Aitu is developing valuable leadership skills and learning about the importance of her rights.

Aitu says, “It was through the Reflect circle discussion that I realised that women must have economic security in case situations turn bad. Now I have put land in my name and started saving money in the bank in my own name.”

Aiti talking about women's rights in Nepal

Aitu has also led the group to take action to improve the facilities offered by the local government so that women can run their homes and businesses more efficiently. For example, they wrote to the Village Development Committee and asked for a grain-grinding mill in their community so that they don’t have to travel the whole day to get to the nearest grinding mill.

The committee has accepted their request and agreed to part fund the mill, which is a huge achievement and will make a big difference to all the women in their area.

We asked five gender experts their thoughts 

To address how we can support more women leaders like Aitu, ActionAid recently co-hosted an event on women’s economic justice with a panel of feminist academics, activists and economists.

The panellists used the opportunity to share their thoughts on why women tend to be concentrated in poorly paid jobs and vulnerable to exploitation in the economy. They argued that the economy and the labour force relies on the work women do in the home and all too often this work is taken for granted.

They emphasised that women’s economic inequality (pdf) reflects gender discrimination both in the home, in wider society and in public life. As Professor Naila Kabeer put it, it is “the pressure of conformity to strict gender roles” that is one of the biggest problems.

It is important that this is understood by governments and financial institutions.  Senior Director for Gender at the World Bank, Caren Grown reassured the audience that “..gender has been elevated as a top corporate priority” there. This is important because as she said “..not all [economic] growth is equal”. It is essential that women benefit equally from economic development.

The 3 main recommendations for achieving women’s economic equality presented by discussant Professor Diane Elson were to:

1.    Demand a living wage
2.    Increase support for women’s organisations
3.    Improve public services and infrastructure funded with gender responsive tax

As she put it, key to change is ‘…challenging the assumptions of economists, challenging vested interests and investing in and supporting collective action.’

Listen to the discussion in full

To hear from each of the panellists you can listen to the podcasts below: