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The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women (HERO)

A new Foreign Policy series hosted by Reena Ninan about women creating change through economic empowerment. You’ll learn about a new approach to affordable childcare in Kenya, increasing awareness about women working informally in India, and women challenging gender dynamics within their homes in Uganda, among others. HER♀ is a Foreign Policy production with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

HER listeners can learn more about these topics by signing up for special access to an FP Analytics policy brief on gender equality. Sign up by clicking here.

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Reena Ninan is the founder of Good Trouble Productions. She is a television journalist who has worked as a White House correspondent, foreign reporter, and news anchor for CBS, ABC, and Fox News.

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Episode 1

Creating Affordable, High-Quality Child Care—Lessons from Kenya

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As FP Analytics highlights in its new report, “Elevating Gender Equality in COVID-19 Economic Recovery,” there’s a dire global child care shortage, which the pandemic only worsened. But increasing COVID-19 recovery plan investments in care work—especially the child care sector—would deliver greater and more sustainable stimulus than other measures, such as construction-oriented funding. Still, even if more governments better support the care sector, how does one launch high-quality, affordable child care centers in the near future?

On the premiere episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women (or HER♀ for short), host Reena Ninan speaks with Kidogo co-founder Sabrina Habib about how she created a new approach to franchising affordable child care centers that has changed the lives of low-income mothers and female day care owners in Kenya. Habib describes how almost stepping on a baby in a day care center was a “moment of obligation” for her to make a difference. Then, Ninan hears about the state of early childhood development in Kenya from African Population and Health Research Center associate research scientist Patricia Wekulo.

The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Episode 2

Saving More by Changing Gender Roles in Uganda

A photo of Namara Eve with her husband and children.

On today’s episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we’re headed to Uganda, where a group of women are saving money—and participating in a pilot program called “Household Dialogues” from the nonprofit CARE, where they’re attending a form of couples counseling. Host Reena Ninan speaks with Namara Eve, who participated in the Household Dialogues, and Julia Arnold, senior research director at Accion’s Center for Financial Inclusion.

But before we get into the Household Dialogues project, let us first explain a bit about women’s savings groups. Informal savings groups operating outside of a bank, where around a dozen individuals from a local community band together to save their money collectively, are a common practice in Uganda. One estimate showed that around two-thirds of all adults in Uganda save money that way, including a large number of women’s only groups. And during the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, FP Analytics notes that households with a member in an informal savings group have been more likely to have savings and less likely to experience food insecurity.

Women’s informal savings groups, however, can only do so much. To access larger sums of capital, the women need to join a bank, and oftentimes own a smartphone. And for many of these women, their husbands have the only smartphone in the household—which can be a barrier to the women’s economic advancement. So, in the Household Dialogues project, CARE financial counselors met seven times with women and their spouses to help the husbands be more actively supportive.

To hear more about the Household Dialogues project, listen to our latest episode on this page or subscribe on your favorite podcast app. The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Episode 3

Why Are There so Many Women Informal Workers in India?

Deepa, an Indian domestic worker

According to the International Labor Organization, 81.8 percent of women’s employment in India is concentrated in the informal economy—that is, work that is not taxed or is under the table. On today’s episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we examine why India has one of the highest rates of women in the informal sector and what can be done to get them more rights, income, and support. Host Reena Ninan first speaks with Deepa, a domestic worker and union member of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), which has more than 1.5 million women informal worker members. Then Ninan speaks with SEWA’s Punjab state coordinator Harsharan Kaur, who describes how SEWA advances the rights and economic empowerment of women informal workers. After that, Ninan talks to Institute of Social Studies Trust research fellow Monika Banerjee, who specializes in women informal workers in India, and, finally, the chief economist for South Asia at the World Bank, Hans Timmer.

To hear more about women informal workers in India, listen to our latest episode on this page or subscribe on your favorite podcast app—and thank you to Apple Podcasts, which just listed HERO as a New & Noteworthy Podcast! The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Episode 4

How Better Gender Data Is Uncovering Hidden Truths in Ethiopia

Letty Chiwara

When we use the phrase “remarkable women” for this podcast, Letty Chiwara definitely fits the bill. She is the current U.N. Women Representative to Ethiopia, the Africa Union Commission, and the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa. Although these are broad titles, one major part of her work is helping others get better data on the lives of Ethiopian women, including their full financial contributions to society.

On today’s episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we explore how getting better data on gender disparities is uncovering hidden truths in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Host Reena Ninan first speaks with Chiwara, who spearheaded a major gender data effort in Ethiopia. Then, Ninan talks to Emily Courey Pryor, executive director of the nonprofit Data2X. Her organization partners with entities like U.N. Women, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and individual countries to improve their collection and analysis of gender data.

To hear more about the movement to improve gender data, listen to our latest episode on this page or subscribe on your favorite podcast app. Also, for the real nerds out there, you can sign up to get a policy brief on gender equality. This is content thats normally behind a paywall at Foreign Policy, but were offering special access to our podcast listeners. Its a great resource for understanding the big picture on whats happening globally to try and tackle gender inequality.

The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is an FP podcast supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.