WOMEN AND ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE: It can be done

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Interview with Sabrina Grementieri and Velma J. Starling
By Laura Costantini

We are still very much a patriarchal and misogynist society, and despite some great progress, it is still far from being a level playing field. Recent research done by ISTAT in 2006 (available here) shows that about 30% of women are in an inferior economic state compared to their partner. And mass media, especially television, continues to show female role models choosing detergent or bringing pasta to the table. Therefore, it is difficult for the audience to think of different role models for women, such as a manager, economist, police officer …This situation facilitates many women’s tendency to delegate their family’s financial management to their partner. A potentially dangerous choice if you choose to separate.

Intervista_LSV_1What might be the solution for a woman who wants to regain economic independence? There are agencies that compare options and offer advice (e.g. CADMI in Milan, which published this Free Guide to discuss the problem, or the anti-violence centers Liberetutte and Aiutodonna in Pistoia that have developed this booklet) but a lot of effort is required to get information. There needs to be psychological preparation, before a person even shows up at the counter of a bank. Then there are the technical tools, such as micro-credit and the options offered by ethical banks.

What is microfinance?

Intervista_LSV_2If you go to a bank, it pays attention to two elements when evaluating risk and deciding whether to grant you a loan: the guarantees that you can offer (Do you have a steady pay check? Are you a house owner?) and the information from loans that you may have received in the past (Did you manage them well? Were you punctual with instalments or tended to be late? Did you run to the Caribbean with money?). An institution that does microcredit bases decisions on other criteria: if you have good idea for a small business, which you can describe in a convincing manner, and your ability to execute this idea competently. They look at you as a person, rather than what you already have in your pocket.

What is an ethical bank?

Intervista_LSV_3Ethical banks are lenders who seek to spread a transparent, fair and sober business culture. Ethical banks are anxious to spread the idea that money must be only the means and not the end.

As writers and communicators, how can we spread the message that it is necessary to maintain economic independence as the first guarantee of freedom?

It is important that those involved in communication and writing pay attention to the language they use. Stereotypes and clichés, often used unwittingly, legitimize the male-dominated culture rooted in society because the progresses made in equal rights to date have only barely scratched the surface. In journalism one should consult women as much as possible (for interviews, advice, opinions) and show their expertise and professionalism. Show that they work and are independent, and are also happy and fulfilled.

 

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