You can’t keep up with Bitcoin news regularly and be unaware of the transformative technology that makes cryptocurrency possible: blockchain.
For a quick refresh, blockchain is an immutable ledger comprised of a series of data points strung into time-stamped blocks and that are distributed across a global network of computers.
Blockchain is inherently secure and resistant to manipulation by design, and solved the “double spending” issue which plagued earlier attempts at cryptocurrency. Although bitcoin was the original pioneer to develop blockchain, this type of code has been adapted into other types of digital coin.
Blockchain’s possible uses are limitless and promise to solve an array of issues.
From consolidating healthcare records and managing horticultural supply chains, blockchain can democratize currency and records management in ways that will do more than shape the financial industry. Furthermore, blockchain offers women around the world several ways in which it can empower their lives and economic futures. We’ve outlined three seemingly ordinary processes that blockchain can change in a way to help women around the world.
According to the World Bank, women in economically disenfranchised countries are less likely to hold an official ID and often lack a birth certificate, or other necessary documentation. Women who are victims of human trafficking usually have their documents held hostage by their abusers as a method of entrapment and control. Blockchain’s ability to store personal records in a safe and affordable way can provide women with digital IDs accessible by anyone but not vulnerable to manipulation, or at risk of being witheld. By making personal records secure and easy through blockchain, many women will be able to obtain land titles and bank accounts as well as qualify for jobs. Keeping these records on blockchain versus on paper also means an abuser can not withhold his captive’s documents.
Seventy percent of the global population lacks access to land titling. As is usually the case, women are disproportionately burdened by insecure land rights. Land a woman legally owns may simply be commandeered by her physically stronger male neighbor, for example. According to the United Nations, women own less than 20%of the world’s land. In the many countries, particularly those which espouse traditional gender roles, women’s land rights “are stymied by insufficient enforcement of land laws, discrepancies between constitutions and customary law, and patriarchal power structures that govern many households and communities” according to Fortune.
But, contracts maintained securely on blockchain will help women protect their property ownership since blockchain makes falsification or unauthorized modification of documents virtually impossible. Blockchain’s inhertently secure design means no patriarch, from the family or government, can deny when a contested piece of land belonged to a woman.
Now, this isn’t about big financial institutions and managing assets but the most basic of economic empowerment. Because blockchain provides safe financial transactions, it could bring financial services to the world’s 42% of women without bank accounts. Depending on the cryptocurrency, payments made with blockchain are often free of fees since the technology is based on peer-to-peer transactions with no third-party intermediary like a central bank. Unlike most checking accounts, there are no costs associated with opening a cryptocurrency wallet. Since women are less likely than men to afford maintenance fees or minimum balance requirements, they are less likely to have bank accounts and as a result are often forced to rely on part-time and informal employment.
Some new cryptocurrency tokens like 37Coins are exploring how to allow blockchain to make payments made via SMS.
Soon may be the day Wi-Fi and smartphones will not be required to use blockchain services. Given the 23% gender gap in Internet access across the developing world which is established through gender norms and misogyny, the ability to make payments via SMS eliminates a serious obstacle many women face, especially in rural areas.
To be clear: blockchain is not the be all, end all solution to the rampant marginalization and disenfranchisement of women around the world.
Biased laws and cultural attitudes/customs based in misogyny remain a huge threat to women worldwide. Blockchain can’t change entrenched social norms and unfair laws but it can boost women’s economic opportunities by providing the infrastructure to realize them.
(To learn more about blockchain opportunities, read Interest in careers geared towards cryptocurrency spiked in 2017.)