This past March, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), gave a virtual speech to the President and Vice President of Colombia, focusing on women’s empowerment as a means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations.
The framework of her speech is to imagine women’s empowerment as a woven fabric. Each strand (that is, each approach towards empowerment) is weak on its own, but when combined together, the fabric becomes tough and resilient. Similarly, when women are woven into their communities as leaders, the societal fabric becomes even more robust.
Through my Duke Engage project, I’ve learned that women’s empowerment is beneficial not only to the women themselves but also to their communities. However, I’ve focused on it primarily from a humanitarian perspective. I advocate for women’s empowerment because I believe in equal rights and equal access for all humans. Georgieva takes a different approach to justify women’s empowerment, however. Some might say that she overlooks the ethical aspect of women’s empowerment, but I think she intentionally excludes it. Instead, she discusses the economic benefits of it. Of course, this makes sense because of her background in economics, but I believe this approach is specifically tailored to her audience. I hypothesize that some politicians would publicly agree that women’s empowerment is necessary but do little towards it. However, when met with the economic reasons for empowering women, they would have more of an incentive to make real change. In fact, Georgieva quantifies how women can boost productivity, financial stability, and economic growth. Furthermore, she pressures leaders to make this change by explaining that countries should not just say they’re committed to women but also reflect it in their budgets. They should invest in women’s health, education, and infrastructure.
Georgieva doesn’t place all of the responsibility on the government, though. She explains that the private sector should demonstrate their support by providing women with equal access to banking and other financial technologies. Furthermore, public-private partnerships can work together to empower women. This cross-sectoral collaboration will push organizations to do their part and hold each other accountable, instead of brushing off the task. It’s no longer enough for governments and companies to say they believe in equal rights. They must support their claims with real action.
While Georgieva and I have vastly different backgrounds, we both agree that women’s empowerment is absolutely crucial towards safeguarding our future. While Georgieva focuses on an economic approach, Audiopedia focuses on sharing vital health knowledge. This article proved to me that these different approaches are not at odds; in fact, they are synergistic. Gender inequality is a huge problem…there is no catch-all solution. We need multiple organizations (governmental, private, non-profit, etc.) and individual people all woven together to create the fabric of an effective change. Each approach, no matter how different, empowers women to act as agents of change in their own communities. This not only improves their individual lives but also those of their families, neighbors, coworkers. Each of these small changes, when combined together, bring us closer and closer to a more just world.