Promoting Economic Empowerment: Ensuring Equal Opportunities and Dignity for All

November 17, 2023

Picture of a young girl on a stair case.

On the Stairs, Senza Senso via Wikimedia Commons

By Paria Anjum Rajput ’26

Economic empowerment remains a critical aspect of human rights. It encompasses the principles of equal opportunities, fair wages, and the eradication of poverty. Unfortunately, many individuals and communities face significant barriers that prevent them from accessing it.

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of fundamental human rights, the right to dignity and a decent life.

Nelson Mandela

Barriers to Economic Empowerment

Numerous challenges hinder economic empowerment for marginalised individuals and communities, and the world is far from being able to provide equal opportunities for all.

Income inequality remains a persistent issue, with a significant wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Discrimination based on factors such as race, gender, and disability further exacerbates economic disparities. Limited access to quality education, healthcare, and financial services also hampers economic opportunities. Additionally, informal economies, lack of job security, and exploitative labour practices contribute to the cycle of poverty and disempowerment.

For one, global income inequality is extremely high. The average income of the country with the highest average GDP per capita is 172 times higher than the country with the lowest. And the richest 10% of the world holds 52% of all the income, while the poorest half has merely 8.5%.

It is difficult for individuals born into poverty to close this immense gap. Many with insecure incomes face a lack of other resources that limits one’s opportunities.

According to the Children’s Bureau, “Living in poverty often means having limited access to healthcare, food and housing security, greater risk of school drop-out for children, homeless[ness], unemployment due to lack of education or child care and, unfortunately, not reaching one’s full potential.”

What is more, discrimination can provide yet another barrier to economic empowerment and further inequalities. One instance of how discrimination does this can be seen through the fact that on average, women around the world are paid 20% less than men. In some locations the gap is even larger. And the gender pay gap is only one example of how discrimination may limit one’s economic opportunities.

Over all, no matter how hard an individual works, systemic barriers can prevent economic empowerment. These barriers can make it near impossible to live a life with full access to rights and dignity. However, actions can still be taken to promote economic empowerment and improve the lives of people around the world.

Promoting Economic Empowerment

Several strategies can be implemented to promote economic empowerment and ensure equal opportunities for all.

  1. First, education plays a crucial role in providing individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to access better job opportunities. Investing in quality education, vocational training, and lifelong learning programs can empower individuals to begin to break free from the cycle of poverty.
  2. Furthermore, ensuring fair and equal employment practices is essential. This includes implementing policies to eliminate gender and racial pay gaps, providing safe and healthy working conditions, and protecting workers’ rights. Governments, businesses, and civil society must collaborate to create an enabling environment that fosters inclusive economic growth.
  3. Access to financial services and credit is another vital aspect of economic empowerment. Expanding microfinance initiatives, promoting financial literacy, and providing affordable and accessible financial services can empower individuals to start businesses, invest in education, and improve their overall economic well-being.
  4. Supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses is also crucial. Governments can create favorable policies and regulatory frameworks that encourage business growth, provide access to markets, and offer mentorship and incubation programs for aspiring entrepreneurs. Additionally, fostering partnerships between larger corporations and small businesses can break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

Promoting economic empowerment is not merely a matter of economic growth; it is a fundamental human rights issue. By ensuring equal opportunities and dignity for all, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society. Governments, businesses, civil society, and individuals must work together to dismantle barriers, promote fair practices, and provide the necessary support and resources for economic empowerment. Only through these collective efforts can we truly achieve a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and realize their full potential.

Paria Anjum Rajput, ’26 is a Political Science major and criminology minor at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan. She has a passion for human rights and is also involved in different kinds of social work.

The views expressed here represent those of the author and not necessarily of Albion College.