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Economics Inclusion & The Digital Revolution: How Digital Cryptocurrencies Can Empower Women in Emerging Economies

As we celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments of women around the world, we must also raise awareness about issues still impacting those who share our gender in emerging economies. In recent history, women have made considerable strides. As of today, 6.3% of international political leaders are women and 25% of key C-suite positions in major corporations are held by women. In western societies, women now have more opportunities than ever to succeed and advance. However, this reality is not the same in the developing world, where men tend to control economic and political decisions. The digital revolution presents women with a unique opportunity to disrupt the power structure by leveraging digital cryptocurrencies to propel their progress.

In 2008, a cryptic white paper authored under the pseudonym ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ changed the world forever. Thirteen years later, cryptocurrency has emerged as an appreciating (or depreciating) value exchange tool for goods. For instance, Tesla recently bought 1.5 billion in bitcoin and will accept it as a form of payment for its vehicles. According to CNBC, “that would make Tesla the first major motor company to do so.” The emergence of this revolutionary phenomenon of cryptocurrency has opened an array of possibilities, especially in the lives of women around the world. Through the expansion of accessibility and acceptability as a form of payment, cryptocurrency enables women to become empowered in two significant ways; controlling their financial futures, and access to financial services.

Control over Finances

Digital cryptocurrencies allow women with access to smartphones, the autonomy to create their economic opportunities. According to the United Nations, “Gender disparities in poverty are rooted in inequalities in access to economic resources. In many countries, women continue to be economically dependent on their spouses. Lower proportions of women than men have their cash income from labor as a result of the unequal division of paid and unpaid work. In developing countries, statutory and customary laws continue to restrict women’s access to land and other assets, and women’s control over household economic resources is limited… About one in three married women from developing regions has no control over household spending on major purchases, and about one in 10 married women is not consulted on how their cash earnings are spent.” Restricting economic opportunities can impede economic advancement for women and nations. This is detrimental to the progression of an emerging economy’s future. The book ‘Poor Economics’ by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo illustrates that when women are given control over finances and political power, “over time, women appear to be doing more than men with the same limited budget and reported to be less inclined to take bribes.” The digital revolution allows women to have financial freedom by storing and protecting their funds, which is liberating. This promotes a more equitable society in those countries that oppress women.

Access to Financial Services

With the emergence of the blockchain and decentralized finance (Defi), banks serving as essential intermediaries to verify financial exchanges are becoming challenged. Digital cryptocurrencies allow financial inclusion because a significant portion of the developing world remains unbanked. As stated by Abhijit and Esther in ‘Poor Economics’, “the fact that the poor have to substitute for lack of access to proper bank accounts by adopting complicated and costly alternative strategies to save might also mean that they save less than they would if they had a bank account.” This presents new opportunities for digital cryptocurrencies to empower women because it allows them access to the global market. However, the challenge is liquidity, which is something being combatted by NGO groups.

Ultimately, cryptocurrency is not perfect. It is highly volatile and based upon intrinsic value. However, it is a tool that allows women traditionally ‘left behind’ or overlooked to create economic opportunities for themselves, and in return, these economies are impacted positively. Digital cryptocurrencies are playing a small, yet mighty role in enabling women in all areas of the world to become empowered through economics. An equal world is an enabled world.

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Guyesha Blackshear
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