Livelihoods Livelihoods

Helping women to earn an income

Women should have equal access to the resources needed to earn an income such as education, land and credit. We help women access the skills, knowledge and resources they need to succeed and lead their families out of poverty.

Women all over the world fight for their rights to get a job, be paid equally and be treated fairly. But nothing will change until women also have the rights to set the agenda, to participate, to make decisions and to lead!

The Issue

Women are disproportionately affected by poverty. This is largely because women have long been denied access to resources and the power to determine how to use them. 

The types of work women tend to perform — such as caring for children, the elderly and the sick, fetching water, cooking meals, keeping households clean and running smoothly — are usually unpaid and undervalued. Many women with no income rely on a male breadwinner and are given little or no say over how his income is spent, despite how much unpaid labour she contributes. When food is scarce, it is the women who will go without. And girls are more likely than boys to be pulled out of school to work or help around the home, meaning the cycle of women in poverty continues.

By excluding half their adult population from working, communities are restricted from growing their economy and their potential. Helping women to earn an income helps everyone — but only if the underlying causes of discrimination against women and girls are also addressed. Because empowering individual women to succeed will only get us so far. We need to fix the system, so women don’t just have a seat at the table — they occupy at least half of the chairs.

Fast Facts

More than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate people are women.

Women reinvest 90% of their income in their families and communities, while men reinvest 30% to 40% of their income.

Globally, women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men.

The Solution

A woman lifting herself out of poverty is often not as simple as just ‘getting a job’. Laws in many countries restrict women’s economic opportunities, dictating the types of jobs that women can do, or giving husbands the right to prevent their wives from accepting work. In other places, deep-seated beliefs about women’s roles mean women are excluded from resources and opportunities to seek work. 

The solution, therefore, is to remove the obstacles that prevent women from earning an income. This includes working with whole communities, especially men and boys, to challenge discriminatory behaviours and attitudes towards women that keep everyone from achieving their potential. It’s supporting women to establish savings groups and providing business and entrepreneurial skills training. And it means ensuring women have a workplace that provides adequate wages and safe working conditions, where they are protected from sexual and gender-based violence.

John Hewat/CARE

Women mean business

Jorja Currington/CARE

Jorja Currington/CARE

Despite working a similar job as her husband at a garment factory in Bangladesh, Arifa struggled to find her independence. She wasn’t earning as much as him, she was constantly overlooked for promotions at work, and at home, she had little say over how their combined income was spent. 

Then she joined our Empowering Women Workers project, which trains women to advocate for themselves, improving their self-confidence, and ensuring employers treat people of all genders fairly. Arifa started standing up for herself and has seen incredible changes at work — she even has her sights set on a new job!

“I have learned how to communicate better at work. I learnt about leadership, and I have the courage to speak up now,” she says. “I can now talk clearly so ten people at the table can hear me.

“I believe that I will get a promotion shortly. I was nominated for a supervisor role.”

This self-empowered attitude isn’t just helping Arifa at work — she’s using these skills at home too: “I feel more comfortable talking with my husband. Before participating in the training, I would talk with my husband very carefully … but I learnt that I am a lot more confident and my self-esteem has increased, and so has my decision-making capacity … my confidence creates a space for me.”

Arifa’s agency has allowed her to share decision-making in her relationship and have an equal say in how money is spent and saved. This was especially vital when COVID-19 forced garment factories across Bangladesh to close down, and Arifa and her husband lost their income. Arifa organised a loan to support her family through the lockdown, and that sustained them for the months before they returned to work.

Now, Arifa says: “I want every other girl to have the opportunity to do this training and learn her rights. I want no one left behind. I don’t know what my career pathway will be, I just want to keep developing.” 

Image 1&2: John Hewat/CARE

Image 3&4: Jorja Currington/CARE