Submit your name and email to receive updates about FP podcasts.
The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women (HERO)
A Foreign Policy series about women creating change through economic empowerment, hosted by Reena Ninan. This season, we have partnered with journalists around the world to cover underreported ways women are challenging the status quo. You’ll hear about justice for domestic migrant workers in Gulf states, how to break down gender barriers in the film industry, and the financial factors behind female genital mutilation, among other issues. HER♀ is a Foreign Policy production made possible in part through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Watch the trailer below to see more about the show.
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.
Lead Producer: Laura Rosbrow-Telem |
Managing Editor: Rob Sachs
Listen Here or Subscribe:
NEW FOR SUBSCRIBERS:Click + to receive email alerts when new episodes are published for
According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced female genital mutilation, or FGM. That’s about 5 percent of women and girls around the globe. How can the world finally end FGM?
On today’s episode of TheHidden Economics of Remarkable Women—our first of Season 3—reporter Eunice Maina explains how financial factors incentivize women to perpetuate this practice and interviews a group of girls who are tackling it head-on.
Later in the episode, host Reena Ninan speaks with Caroline Lagat, a program officer at Equality Now. Lagat works largely on legal ways to end FGM.
How Nigerian Women Change Social Norms Through Film
On today’s episode, we look at how Nigerian women are changing social norms through the film industry. First, reporter Yecenu Sasetu profiles the Girls Voices Initiative’s Girl Nation Academy and how it is increasing access to women looking to break into film. For deeper analysis, host Reena Ninan then speaks to Ojoma Ochai, managing partner of the Creative Economy Practice at CC Hub, which helps support film and other creative projects in Africa.
How Shea Nut Collectives Are Empowering African Women
A lot of shea butter, which can be found in moisturizers and chocolate, originates from West and East Africa. According to the Global Shea Alliance, shea exports from African countries increased about 600 percent in the first two decades of this century.
Most shea nut collectors are rural women. So this should be great news for them. But because of the way the shea nut supply chain operates, most women are at the bottom of the power structure, oftentimes squeezed out by middlemen.
Then host Reena Ninan speaks with Sybil Chidiac, a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Chidiac focuses on women’s economic empowerment initiatives in Africa and shares her thoughts on this program and others to Ninan. (For transparency, HERO is funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)
Protecting Migrant Domestic Workers
Close to 20 percent of all domestic workers are migrant workers, according to the International Labour Organization. Most of these domestic workers are women, and they are particularly common in Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia.
Kenya sends a lot of domestic workers to Gulf countries. More than half of the over 87,784 Kenyans employed in the Middle East since 2019 have been domestic workers.
But many women returning from this work describe horrific circumstances, particularly in Saudi Arabia. And in an alarming number of cases, death.
On today’s episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, reporter Pauline Ongaji talks with Kenyan women who have returned from domestic work in Saudi Arabia. Then host Reena Ninan speaks with Caroline Kasina from the Solidarity Center in Kenya and Ruth Khakame from the Kudheiha domestic workers union about their efforts to organize Kenyan domestic workers in Gulf states.
Striving for Affordable Child Care in Bangladesh
One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its resulting child care crisis, is that an increasing number of countries have passed legislation supporting the child care sector. These include Vietnam, Peru, Argentina, and Bangladesh.
On today’s episode of TheHidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we hear about Bangladesh’s efforts to increase access to child care, particularly for working parents. Bangladeshi lawmakers passed the Child Daycare Centre Act in 2021, and last year, they proposed implementation guidelines.
Then, senior producer Laura Rosbrow-Telem talks with day care managers in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital and largest city, to gauge their opinion of the law. Producer Alvah Amit Halder provided reporting and production assistance from Dhaka.
This week, we are also conducting a listener survey to better understand what you like about the podcast and what else you’d like to hear in future episodes. All participants in the survey who provide their email will be eligible to win a $25 Amazon gift card. To participate, follow this survey link. Thank you very much for your time and feedback.
Developing Male Allies in Congo
On today’s episode of HERO, the last of the season, we look at how a Women for Women International program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo worked with families to try to overcome long-standing cultural barriers to women owning land. We hear from a mother, father, and son who participated in this program. Also, Women for Women International’s country director in Congo, Rachel Boketa, explains how this project attempted to change men’s and boys’ opinions about female property ownership. Special thanks to Francis Shok Mweze, who acted as our field producer for this segment.
Boketa’s program was supported with a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The United States currently gives more money to international development than any other country in the world, largely through USAID.
In the second part of the episode, host Reena Ninan talks to Isobel Coleman, the deputy administrator of USAID. Coleman explains why the Biden administration is doubling funding toward gender programming and how USAID plans to invest that financing. This conversation first took place at FP’s Her Power Summit, an annual gathering all about women’s leadership.
Finally, we are conducting a listener survey to better understand what you like about the podcast and what you’d like to hear in future episodes. All participants in the survey who provide their email will be placed in a raffle to win a $25 Amazon gift card. To participate, follow this survey link. Thank you very much for your time and feedback.
This season on HERO, we will delve deeper into all the obstacles blocking women from their full financial potential and interview women breaking these barriers down. Listeners will hear from people reforming marital laws in South Africa and property rights in Kenya—and what victories in both places would mean for unlocking women’s financial potential. We will also look at which micro-finance strategies work best and why better lending practices could be huge for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast made possible through funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
How a South African Woman’s Fight for Marital Rights Changed Her Country
On this week’s episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we look at how reforming marital rights could be the biggest first step toward gender equality. We found the idea for this show from the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law (WBL) project, which ranks 190 economies every year for how well their policies are for gender equality. According to the WBL, South Africa has made the third-most progress regarding gender equality of any country in the world over the last 50 years, largely due to the women’s movement being interconnected with the fight to end apartheid. During the late 1980s and early ’90s, many reforms passed in South Africa propelled women’s rights, particularly in expanding married women’s ability to sign legally binding contracts, register businesses, and open bank accounts without their husband’s consent.
But decades after apartheid ended, one law remained on the books that continued to plague Black women, particularly ones seeking a divorce. We talk to Agnes Sithole, whose divorce case shook her country’s legal system. We also speak to Sharita Samuel, the lawyer who brought Sithole’s case before the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest court.
Special thanks this week to Nisha Arekapudi and Natalia Mazoni Silva Martins from the WBL, who wrote the case study about South Africa’s gender equality gains and spotlighted Sithole’s legal fight. And big thanks to producer Elna Schutz, who flew out from Johannesburg to Durban just to record the interview with Sithole and Samuel.
The Battle for Women’s Property Rights in Kenya
Access to property is arguably one of the most important paths for women’s income security. But for many, there are not only economic barriers to owning property but also legal obstacles. For example, there are approximately 75 countries where women still do not have the same rights as men to inherit property.
On today’s episode of TheHidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we follow the story of Rachel Korir. Her legal battle to get her fair share of her father’s property in Kenya revealed gaps in the country’s recent constitutional reforms, which aimed to make property rights equal among men and women. We also speak to Cardiff University professor Ambreena Manji, who specializes in East African land, law, and development. Two years ago, Manji also wrote a book titled The Struggle for Land and Justice in Kenya.
Special thanks this week to Dominic Kirui, who first reported about Korir and helped us produce our interview; Olivia Bitanihirwe, who provided Korir’s voice-over; and Mary Ellen Iskenderian, the president and CEO of Women’s World Banking. An early conversation with Iskenderian got us thinking more about property rights.
What Works in Microfinance
In its simplest definition, microfinance refers to small loans usually worth less than $1,000 for people with low incomes. Microfinance is a widely discussed idea in development circles, particularly surrounding women’s empowerment. But how effective is it?
On this episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we look at why microfinance has had mixed results and learn about the best ways to distribute these kinds of loans. First, we talk to a Turkish Grameen Foundation/Kiva microcredit recipient named Kudret about the impact microfinance has had on her personally. Then, Roshaneh Zafar speaks with host Reena Ninan about her experiences launching the Kashf Foundation, the first microfinance institution in Pakistan and the largest loan provider to women in the country.
Special thanks this week to Stephen Rasmussen from the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, who recommended FP talk to Zafar. Also, thanks to Aslıhan Köksal and Brit Heiring from Kiva, Andrée Simon from FINCA, and a number of others who spoke to us for this episode. The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast made possible through funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Why Small Business Owners Have Such a Hard Time Getting Loans
According to the World Bank, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) comprise about 90 percent of the global economy. But these kinds of businesses—too big for microfinance and too small for commercial bank loans with favorable rates—face many hurdles to borrowing money. On today’s episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we delve deeper into the “missing middle” credit gap and what can be done to improve SMEs’ access to financing. Also, we look at specific barriers to women business owners, such as how low property ownership rates hinder their ability to qualify for small business loans.
Host Reena Ninan talks to Ada Osakwe, founder of Nuli Juice, about the various obstacles she overcame to expand her business, including her first store almost getting destroyed in Lagos, Nigeria. Then, World Bank financial inclusion expert Mahesh Uttamchandani shares the financial solutions he is most excited about for SMEs.
Special thanks this week to the International Finance Corporation’s Jessica Schnabel, who recommended we talk to Osakwe, and Mary Ellen Iskenderian from Women’s World Banking. The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast made possible through funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
How Better Data Helped End Child Marriage in Indonesia
Indonesia has the eighth highest number of child marriages in the world. Beyond being a human rights issue, child marriage significantly increases the chance of domestic violence, dropping out of school, and poverty. Misiyah Misiyah, founder and director of feminist organization Institut KAPAL Perempuan, wanted to convince Indonesian President Joko Widodo to increase the legal marriage age from 16 to 19, which could dramatically decrease the rate of child marriage. To do that, she and her colleagues came equipped with reams of data.
On the season finale of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we hear how Misiyah collected grassroots data and used it to build a powerful case to ban child marriage in Indonesia. Later in the episode, host Reena Ninan speaks with Mabel van Oranje, founder of Girls Not Brides and VOW for Girls, about the most effective ways to decrease child marriage globally.
Special thanks this week to Alison Holder from Equal Measures 2030, who recommended we talk to Misiyah. You should check out their latest report on countries’ progress toward gender equality and sustainable development goals; it’s pretty sobering. Also, thank you to In-Depth Creative, a lovely podcast company based in Jakarta, Indonesia. They helped produce our interview with Misiyah. The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast made possible through funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Creating Affordable, High-Quality Child Care—Lessons from Kenya
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?
The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is a Foreign Policy podcast supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Saving More by Changing Gender Roles in Uganda
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.
Why Are There so Many Women Informal Workers in India?
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.
How Better Gender Data Is Uncovering Hidden Truths in Ethiopia
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 that’s normally behind a paywall at Foreign Policy, but we’re offering special access to our podcast listeners. It’s a great resource for understanding the big picture on what’s 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.
Boosting Dairy Could Empower Women, Decrease Violence in Nigeria
Violence between cow herders and farmers has killed more people in recent years in northeastern Nigeria than the Boko Haram insurgency, according to the International Crisis Group. One solution to this conflict is creating a better environment for dairy producers so cattle herders do not need to travel as far to get feed for their cows. This would impact not only the country’s security but also the livelihoods of many rural Nigerian women.
On this episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women, we look at the Advancing Local Dairy Development in Nigeria (ALDDN) program. It is focused on smallholder female dairy producers, who make the majority of milk products in the country. ALDDN is primarily supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also supports this podcast.
First, we hear from Rakiya Dalhatu, a dairy producer who participated in ALDDN. Then, we talk to Ndidi Nwuneli, the co-founder of Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Ltd., which leads the ALDDN program. And finally, we speak with Cornell University’s Ed Mabaya, who focuses on global development, agriculture, and food security issues in sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria.
To learn more about how the ALDDN program is trying to empower women, mitigate the effects of climate change, and decrease conflict in Nigeria, listen to our latest episode on this page, or subscribe on your favorite podcast app. The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is an FP podcast supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Finally, we are still offering a new policy brief on gender equality to our listeners! This is content that’s normally behind a paywall at Foreign Policy, but we’re offering special access right now. It’s a great resource for understanding the big picture on what’s happening globally to try to tackle gender inequality.
The Women Setting the Gender Equality Agenda
When we considered what to do for this last episode of the Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women’s first season, it was hard to think of the right people to interview. Who could really comment on what women are facing in the entire world? Thankfully, we were able to connect with two of the most influential women in the world fighting for global gender equality. They reflect on some of the themes we covered on the podcast and what they’re doing to move these issues forward.
Host Reena Ninan first talks to Melanne Verveer, currently the executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Verveer to serve as the first-ever ambassador for global women’s issues in 2009. Before that, Verveer was chief of staff to Hillary Clinton when Clinton was the first lady.
Then, Ninan hears from UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia. UN Women is a part of the United Nations that is dedicated to gender equality and female empowerment. It works with governments, the private sector, and civil society around the world to create better programs and laws for women and girls. Bhatia largely focuses on improving women’s financial reality, so she shares some of her ideas for the best ways to advance women economically.
If you would like to keep in touch with us in the meantime—including sharing ideas of remarkable women we should talk to—feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to be back in your feeds some time soon. The Hidden Economics of Remarkable Women is an FP podcast supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Welcome to a world of insight.
Make the most of FP.
Explore the benefits of your FP subscription.
Explore the benefits included in your subscription.
Stay updated on the topics you care about with email alerts. Sign up below.Stay updated on the topics you care about with email alerts. Sign up below.
Choose a few newsletters that interest you.Get more insight in your inbox.
Here are some we think you might like.
Update your newsletter preferences.
Your guide to the most important world stories of the day. Delivered Monday-Friday.
Essential analysis of the stories shaping geopolitics on the continent. Delivered Wednesday.
One-stop digest of politics, economics, and culture. Delivered Friday.
The latest news, analysis, and data from the country each week. Delivered Wednesday.
Weekly update on developments in India and its neighbors. Delivered Thursday.
Weekly update on what’s driving U.S. national security policy. Delivered Thursday.
A curated selection of our very best long reads. Delivered Wednesday & Sunday.
Evening roundup with our editors’ favorite stories of the day. Delivered Monday-Saturday.
A monthly digest of the top articles read by FP subscribers.
Keep up with the world without stopping yours.
Keep up with the world without stopping yours.
Download the FP mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.
Download the new FP mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.
Read the magazine
Save articles (and read offline)
Customize your feed
Listen to FP podcasts
Analyze the world’s biggest events.
Analyze the world’s biggest events.
Join in-depth conversations and interact with foreign-policy experts with
Join in-depth conversations and interact with foreign-policy experts with
When Washington seeks to curtail Beijing’s ambitions or punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine, it often turns to a familiar tool: sanctions. In the last two years, the Biden administration ...Show morehas deployed unprecedented muscle in the form of sanctions as part of its foreign-policy arsenal.
The question is whether those sanctions work effectively. In which countries are they achieving their desired impact? Where are they less successful? And how does the use of sanctions impact U.S. power more broadly?
Join FP’s Ravi Agrawal in conversation with two experts: Agathe Demarais, the global forecasting director at the Economist Intelligence Unit and author of Backfire: How Sanctions Reshape the World Against U.S. Interests, and Nicholas Mulder, an assistant professor of history at Cornell University and author of The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War. Together, they will explore how sanctions impact U.S. interests today and whether policymakers need to change course.
The new Israeli government is said to be the most far-right, religiously extreme, and ultranationalist coalition in the country’s history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-ser...Show moreving prime minister.
Is Israel’s democracy really at risk? What would the government’s planned judicial overhaul mean for Israel’s standing, global cooperation, and economic investments? How does the new government complicate matters for U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security strategy?
Join FP’s Dan Ephron in conversation with Amir Tibon, a senior editor and writer at Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. They’ll discuss Israel’s new far-right government, its plans to overhaul and weaken the judiciary, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial, and U.S. policy on Israel under President Joe Biden.
To mark the halfway point in U.S. President Joe Biden’s first term in office, Foreign Policy asked 20 experts to grade his administration’s performance on relationships with Russia and C...Show morehina, as well as on issues such as defense, democracy, and immigration. The assessments ranged all the way from A- to a failing grade. But more broadly, is there a way to define his administration’s agenda? Is there a Biden doctrine?
FP’s Ravi Agrawal spoke to experts with very different perspectives for insights. Nadia Schadlow was a deputy national security advisor in the Trump administration and is now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Stephen Wertheim is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a longtime advocate for ending so-called forever wars. Perhaps surprisingly, Wertheim was more critical of Biden’s foreign policy—specifically on China—than was Schadlow. Is that because Biden has largely doubled down on former President Donald Trump’s China policies?
Watch the interview or read the condensed transcript to find out.
See what’s trending.
See what’s trending.
Most popular articles on FP right now.
Most popular articles on FP right now.