Women & SDG


By: Miracle Nwankwo


The increased report of maternal mortality in many parts of the world especially in developing countries in recent times calls for the attention to more solutions to the problem.

Maternal mortality has become unbearably high as everyday women and infants die of Pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. In as much as countries have directed their agendas to key developmental areas, it is also important to put into consideration the critical role of Women, Children and Adolescents’ Health to the global Sustainable Development Goals.

In recent times, the emergence of female-owned small businesses around the world have exceeded its record of the past, this is largely dependent on the fact that each day, women develop unique ideas and business strategies towards improving their lives and participating in the global economic development.

Research has shown that female-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up to 30 percent to 37 percent of all SMEs (8 million to 10 million women-owned firms) in the emerging markets. This result does not exclude the rural women in developing countries.

However, these women and their businesses are faced with a general challenge which has to do with finance.

Due to several issues ranging from collateral, trust, and so on, women entrepreneurs face difficulties in obtaining bank credit compared to men. This limitation has crippled the general access to finance majorly for the women entrepreneurs in rural areas.

In India, several financial institutions have initiated new measures to expand the access to finance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), yet women-owned MSMEs continue to suffer complications.

Although there are other varying challenges, the bulk of the problem rest solely on the access to finance. Gaining access to adequate credit for business expansion remains a huge barrier to most female entrepreneurs.


  • Collateral

The issue of collateral is the first and major problem that the women are often faced with. This explains why many rural women never make the move of approaching the banks for loans. Most developing countries are patriarchal oriented and their culture is strictly favorable to the men. Collaterals such as lands and other assets are not accessible to the women but for the male folk, assets are passed down to them through inheritance (by their fathers).

  • Limited Awareness and Illiteracy

Most of these women are unlearned and do not know how to go about it. This category of women constitute widows who have access to lands and other properties passed down to them by their late husbands or female children from royal clans. But lack adequate information and understanding of the formal financial sector’s products and services limits their access.

  • The Hostile Methods

While others face the issue of collateral and education, a large number of the women find the process too complicated. This is because, most banks employ more men than women, and most female employees are assigned desk jobs. The communication becomes deterred and as a result, financial institutions miss the opportunity to rapport with and fully understand women entrepreneurs. On the other hand, the women, based on the lack of negotiation, they fail to familiarize with the complex processes of the banking and financial systems and then they end up quitting concluding that they will never get the loan.

  • Lack of Trust

The banking sectors displace trust for the women-owned enterprise and do not encourage the women to hang on through the complex processes posed at them during the period of loan acquisition. This is very discouraging for the women as it frustrates their plans and weakens their decision. Banker’s perception about women-led enterprises is that it is risky because they are usually smaller businesses with limited/no collateral.



It is important for women to have access to adequate funding in all developing countries as it is an obvious fact that this move will push for development in both global and individual economies. This, therefore, calls for the involvement of stakeholders, government, and non-governmental organizations, private sector organizations in addressing the constraints women are faced with.

Creating unique packages tailored to suit different kinds of businesses, and reducing requirements for obtaining loans for small and medium-scale businesses will help solve this issue with an overall goal to improve the lives of women around the world and bridge gender gap. The banking sector needs to make some important adjustment to their systems in order to accommodate these women.

Why is this important? Evaluating the significant contributions of female entrepreneurs in developed countries like the United States in the space of three decades, the growth of women-owned firms have exceeded and doubled the rate of all other firms (23 percent and 9 percent respectively).

Research has shown that they contribute nearly $3 trillion to the U.S. economy and are directly responsible for 23 million jobs. This heavy input has resulted to a projection that predicts the emanation of future job growth in the United States primarily from women-owned small businesses.

Looking also at Canada, in 2004 it was recorded that 47 percent of small enterprises and 70 percent of new business start-ups were run by women.

This explains why they are referred to as the developed countries because they allow the huge contribution of the women in their economy. This is also a pointer to all developing countries to seek for increasing opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

In providing access to adequate finance to women entrepreneurs in every part of the world, the role of the government is highly required. The government can make and change laws that abolish the restriction of land and property ownership to women; empower women with the right information that will enable them to acquire loans, and push for easy access to finance for all women in their respective countries.


The Challenges Faced by African Women Farmers

Nwankwo Miracle Ngozi

Africa’s agricultural sector is experiencing a drastic change following the influx of women in the sector. Women across the continent are contributing immensely to influence crucial roles in shaping the growth of African agriculture.

There is no doubt that women in Africa are key contributors to economic growth and global food security. Despite the limited access to land, inputs, assets, markets, information, and knowledge, time, decision-making, authority and income,  African women are still making waves in the agribusiness. The likes of Mme Elisabeth Atangana; a farmer by profession, has been making strides in Africa’s agricultural sector. She has been referred to as the voice of women farmers, she is also the first President of the Platform of the Pan-African Farmers Organization (PAFO) and was appointed as Special Ambassador for Cooperatives by FAO on 29 May 2012.

Women’s input in the agricultural situation of Africa especially when it comes to food production, food provision, and food exportation cannot be over emphasized. Statistics show that 60 to 80% of foods are produced by women in many developing countries, also they produce half of the total food production in the world, and they also undertake 60 to 90% of the rural marketing.

Women constitute 70% of the work force in the agricultural sector in Africa and 10% of the basic food processing. They also carry out 60 to 90% of the total rural marketing. According to a report put together by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), women make up more than two-third of the workforce in agricultural production.

However, they are faced with diverse challenges that have been an obstacle to their progress in the agribusiness. Women farmers in different countries have little or no access to basic amenities for agricultural production in Africa.

In Nigeria for instance, women farmers are faced with limitations of formal and traditional rules. For those ones who are not restricted by traditional rules, they are bound by formal rules which are as a result of ignorance and lack of educational empowerment.

Yet, Nigerian women constitute a large amount of the total population of farmers in the country. According to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development, women account for 75 percent of the farming population in Nigeria, ranging from farm managers to suppliers of labour. They engage in weeding, harvesting, processing, and selling of farm produce but are rarely involved in the exportation processes. While in most areas, women engage in small scale animal production including small ruminants, poultry, and aquaculture.

The case of Nigerian agricultural women is the same in most African countries. The women are rarely supported by the government. For those who are unlearned, they do not have access to technology and are not informed about its usefulness to the agricultural sector.

The challenge of land

The access to land by African women is very poor, women often face difficulties in recruiting workers and obtaining credit for improved production since they are not the rightful owners of the land. Women are ready to do more than they are already doing if they can be granted equal access to lands like the men. Giving women equal rights to own lands and agricultural resources will mean a plus for the production of women farming in all developing countries from 20% to 30% increase. The issue of land is very crucial because no man can plant in the sky, water is to fish as land is to cultivation. The availability of land to women farmer will ease their struggles to eradicate poverty and grow their business.

In Sub- Saharan Africa, most of the opportunities in rural areas revolve around self-employed farmers, of which women are the majority. But the women do not have access to lands, if the women will have to contend for lands with the men, they will need some judicial, and political backing and resources which they tend to lack?

Nevertheless, some African countries understand the huge support of the women in agriculture and their input in the economy and have taken advantage of it to support their women with lands availability but most African countries still lag behind and this has crippled their growth in the sector.

The challenge of fund

The African woman farmer is also faced with the challenge of adequate funding.  When it comes to the collection of loans, women are greatly behind. It is either they are uninformed about the processes or they do not have collaterals to stand for the loan. On the other hand, some of the women work alongside their husbands and are not considering working on their own.

Under the fund challenge, only women who are learned or are from prominent homes are free from this limitation. But for other women farmers, this challenge is a big restriction to what they would have been able to do if they have an unlimited access to funds.

Even though these women are strong and capable, at the face of disaster where more fund is required than labor, their strength is invalid. Therefore, to encourage these women, the government is expected to invest in them because investing in these women is the solution to the food insecurity problems faced with Africa.

The challenge of technology

The role of technology in the agricultural sector is essential and cannot be over emphasized; this is because technology rules the world. No aspect of human production can ignore technology, and no industry can ignore the role of technology. Technology has created diverse equipment and systems that can be used to drive efficiency, production and greater yields. Advanced agricultural technology makes the work easier and faster for the farmers.

In many underdeveloped countries, agricultural is an important part of the economy because it brings to growth, poverty reduction, and food security. Technology which is one of the means of combating the food crisis in Africa that resulted from the economic meltdown should be offered to the women who are the major facilitators of the general agricultural sector of Africa both in labor and in management.

Most of these advanced technologies are directed to the male audience, yet the majority of the women farmers lack the knowledge and the confidence to use this improved technology and most of the new technologies.

This will only take the government to organize, programs, events, summits and many other empowerments schemes to have these women enlightened with the use of various technologies and also go as far as providing them with the equipment.

The challenge of education

Most of the women farmers are from the rural communities and these women are not educated but they are very good farmers. However, education stands as a barrier between them and the modern system of agriculture. Contrary to the use of technology,  Even if these women are granted access to more conducive and advanced agricultural equipment, the low-quality education which these women have will not meet up to the fast growing systems of agriculture.

The women need access to information, workshop session that will open them up to global initiatives to the growth of agriculture. They need ideas and strategies on how to push up their business from the low point of selling their products to the local markets to sell to the international or global market.

Education brings the women closer to the economy, it clears major barriers and improves the lives of the women.

Nevertheless, this part of education should not only be directed to the unlearned rural women but also to the young women who are agribusiness aspirant. By this, the African woman agribusiness’s future is protected because there are young ones coming to take over from where the older women have stopped.

The Agricultural domain of Africa is largely populated by the African women, however, the access to lands, fund, technology and other resources is greatly hindered by formal and informal restrictions causing a staunched growth to the African woman’s agribusiness. Investing in the African woman’s agribusiness is an escape to food crisis and insecurity faced by most African countries.

Women are household survivals and social reproduction and their participation in the agricultural sector will constitute a great benefit to the food security perspective of Africa.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), female-headed households are more vulnerable to food security as they tend to spend more on food than male-headed households.

It will also be essential to consider the status of women in agriculture. Placing women as key facilitators to the growth of agriculture will lead to boosting the African economy.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) released a policy brief exploring how global standards and guidelines contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture.

The brief, ‘How to Improve Gender Equality in Agriculture,’ explains how using voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) and responsible investment frameworks (RIFs) enable monitoring on investment projects addressing gender inequalities.

In May 2017, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) released a policy brief exploring how global standards and guidelines contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture. The brief, titled ‘How to Improve Gender Equality in Agriculture,’ explains how using voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) and responsible investment frameworks (RIFs) enable monitoring on investment projects addressing gender inequalities. It investigates if more can be done through these instruments to improve the situation of women in agriculture.

The brief ascribes gender inequalities in agriculture to several factors, including women are less likely to hold statutory land rights; the existence of gender discrimination in credit markets; women’s household work is mostly unpaid; investment projects relegate women to temporary, insecure employment; and women lack decision-making power in investment projects.

The publication recommends that all stakeholders adopt a gender-equity approach and engage women as partners in developing and implementing investment principles.

It also recommends that all stakeholders focus on implementation and practice, adopt a gender-equity approach, engage women as partners in developing and implementing investment principles, and consider local gender norms. It recommends that investors: adopt a gender strategy that empowers women; ensure women’s participation in community consultations and in local farmer and employee training programs; account for women’s needs in community development agreements; and continually monitor gender impacts and report on progress annually.


Recommendations for host governments include: prioritizing inclusive and gender-transformative outcomes in agricultural development strategies; requesting a gender statement from investors that explains how the project will improve opportunities for women; working with investors and independent researchers to develop a gender impact assessment study; collecting gender-disaggregated data before, during and after project implementation; and holding investors accountable to gender commitments made.

Such recommendations, if implemented, will help realize a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), among others. The brief is part of a series on investment in agriculture supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).


UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) will convene an expert group meeting from 30 to 31 May at UN Headquarters in New York, to discuss “Strategies to Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls through the Gender-responsive Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

The two-day expert group meeting is taking place in the lead up to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), an intergovernmental platform that provides political leadership, guidance and recommendations for sustainable development and reviews the progress on SDG implementation.

The meeting will gather representatives from governments, UN entities, civil society and other organizations to explore good practices, challenges and lessons learned in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal  5 on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, as well as linkages between SDG 5 and other SDGs.

The 2017 HLPF, scheduled to be held from 10 – 19 July, under the theme of “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world” will review the following set of SDGs: SDG 1, on ending poverty; SDG 2, on ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition; SDG 3, on ensuring healthy lives and wellbeing; SDG 5, on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls; SDG 9, on building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation; SDG 14, on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources; and SDG 17, on revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. 

In addition, 44 countries will present voluntary national reviews on their implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Innovation across the African continent has taken a different turn as more young people are open to thinking out of the box, while applying creative ideas to already exist methods.

Pastoralism in Africa is characterized by a high reliance on livestock as a source of economic, social and physical wellbeing. Pastoralists make crucial decisions on where and when to move herds throughout the year to find adequate grazing in areas that cover thousands of square kilometers using traditional methods including indigenous knowledge, word of mouth, and scouts. While valuable, each have inherent limitations and decreasing reliability as climate and ecologies have witnessed dramatic changes. Inaccurate, delayed, or limited information can be devastating, with irreparable losses that have immediate and long‐term consequences for their livelihoods, well‐being, and even survival.

The Satellite Assisted Pastoralist Resource Management (SAPARM) program provides semi-nomadic pastoralists with digital maps of traditional grazing areas overlaid with current, satellite-derived vegetation information directly on their mobile device in order to improve migration decision-making. Project Concern International (PCI) successfully developed and tested the fusion of community mapping and satellite data integration by delivering paper-based SAPARM maps to pastoralists in Ethiopia demonstrating a 78% use rate and 47% reduction in herd mortality.

According to its baseline conducted by Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development, annual herd mortality rates in these areas have averaged 40% over the last three years in Ethiopia and 26% in Tanzania. This represents a $1,771 annual loss to a pastoral household in Ethiopia and $2,885 in Tanzania– a substantial asset loss equivalent to 27-38% of annual household income for families already on the edge of survival. With more than 225 million pastoralists on the African continent using traditional approaches for determining herd migration, the magnitude of this problem is immense. If the losses that PCI has witnessed hold true across the continent, it represents billions in losses to these country’s economies each year.

 In response to the extreme loss pastoralists are incurring, PCI developed the Satellite Assisted Pastoral Resource Management. SAPARM is the fusion of continuously updated satellite vegetation imagery with community grazing maps. Through this project we intend to develop a mobile application to instantaneously deliver the synthesized grazing map to the matching seminomadic pastoralist’s mobile device for improved migration decision-making.

Intervention communities are first engaged in a one-time mapping process to identify and outline traditional grazing grounds on topographical maps. Once complete, a digitized version of the map is created and overlaid with a visual representation of Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is a measure of photosynthesis. The raw data is derived from Meteosat10, a geostationary weather satellite above North Africa. Maps are then auto generated with the latest NDVI values every 10 days and delivered to the community via mobile application.

PCI completed a proof of concept that prototyped this innovation by developing the mapping and satellite data integration then tested our theory by delivering paper based SAPARM maps in an Ethiopian pastoral community. After less than one year, nearly 80% of pastoralists reported using the maps for migration decision-making. All users found the maps to be accurate in identifying adequate grazing areas and more than half the respondents felt the maps were now their most important source of information for migration decision-making. Herd mortality rates dropped by an average of 47% for all species of animals after introduction of the maps, as compared to the previous three years in the intervention community. A benefit cost ratio was calculated at 47.59:1.

PCI is currently undertaking an expanded field test on the use/impact of SAPARM in its current paper-based form. In addition to partnering with national governments and the World Food Program, PCI has garnered the support and investment of the US Agency for International Development and Their support is funding the expanded testing of SAPARM in 27 communities in Ethiopia and Tanzania, with a total coverage area of over one million people. PCI is also working closely with a Dutch company, Hoefsloot Spatial Solutions on map/satellite data integration, the University of Notre Dame Institute for Global Development on conducting the RCT impact valuation, and University California San Diego’s Rady School of Management on a viable mobile application business model.

While SAPARM in its current paper-based state has demonstrated need, feasibility, and effectiveness, the next challenge is to develop a scalable delivery model. Currently, SAPARM map distribution requires email recipients (PCI or government) to print color maps and physically deliver them to remote villages through a cascaded protocol involving local government and community representatives. This continuous process is an investment in time, labor, and resources, susceptible to delays and breakdowns. For this reason, PCI would need to  develop a mobile application for scalable and reliable SAPARM delivery corresponding to the expansion of 3G/4G coverage and smartphone uptake in Africa.

It intends to build a minimum viable product (MVP) mobile SAPARM application for $25,000 to test in Tanzania for feasibility and impact. The initial features of the mobile MVP application would link the user to their current community and corresponding SAPARM map file, as well as geo-locating the user on that map using the built-in GPS functionality on the smartphone.

Based on the success of this MVP, PCI plans to enhance the application for commercialization for an estimated $75,000. This version will be subscription based and layered on live and cached (downloadable) Google maps (which include more GIS features like roads, villages, conservation areas, etc.). Traditional grazing grounds for a single community of pastoralists can cover up to 22,000 square kilometers, a scale that, on paper, does not allow for details like ponds, streams, or even road names.  The enhanced commercialized application will provide users with the ability to zoom to find surface water, among other land features. Additional application features considered include a rating system, geo-tagged picture sharing, and other communication forums and platforms, based on user want and need.









In 2016, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) released the 2016 edition of the African Human Development Report, which revealed that gender inequality jeopardizes Africa’s efforts to achieve economic growth, inclusive human development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report analyzed the economic, political and social drivers that affect women’s advancement in Africa, providing recommendations on how to close the gender gap, and proposing two initiatives to promote gender equality.

According to the report, African women achieve only 87% of the human development outcomes of men and made only 7 cents for each dollar made by men, in part due to lower levels of female secondary attainment, lower female labor force participation and high maternal mortality. The UNDP report observes that this gender gap costs sub-Saharan Africa US$95 billion annually on average and that a 1% increase in gender inequality reduces a country’s human development index (HDI) by 0.75%.

To achieve gender equality, the report proposes four strategic pathways: adopting legal reforms; building national capacity to accelerate women’s involvement in decision making; adopting multi-sectoral approaches in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment; and accelerating women’s ownership of assets and management of resources.

The report also recommends six enabling actions: using gender equality as an organizing policy lens for all development planning and implementation; tackling destructive social norms; prioritizing gender equality in planning and budgets; ensuring adaptive national institutions to drive a proactive, responsible social framework; valuing data for improved decision making and mid-course corrections, including data disaggregation beyond the national level; and engaging in regional and South-South cooperation in designing and implementing gender-focused policies and initiatives.

The report further proposes a Gender Seal certification to promote and implement gender equality standards in the workplace and an African Women’s Investment Bank.

UNDP Africa Director Abdoulaye Mar Dieye has said that “With existing gender disparities, achieving the SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063 would remain an aspiration, and not a reality.” He added that “Closing the gender gap would not only set Africa on a double-digit economic growth track, but would also significantly contribute to meeting its development goals.”

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark has also underlined that “If gender gaps can be closed in labour markets, education, health, and other areas, then poverty and hunger eradication can be accelerated.” She says achieving gender quality and women’s empowerment “is a development imperative.”