Is Crypto A Love Letter To Women?

  • By Heidi Unrau
  • March 29, 2024
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Dear crypto bros, Satoshi Nakamoto is a feminist icon. If you don’t believe me, read Bitcoin’s whitepaper. It’s steeped in the feminist ideals of decentralization, autonomy, and equal access. Why is that important? Because our shared traumatic experience boils down to this: concentration of power. For centuries, Y chromosomes have thrived on the subjugation and unpaid labour of women. To protect that privilege, they’ve built systemic moats that run deep and wide. But cryptocurrency and blockchain technology are lowering the drawbridge, helping women take back control of our money and bodies. Here’s why crypto is an underrated agent of change. 

What Crypto & Feminism Have in Common

In response to the Global Financial Crisis, egregious policy failures, and centuries of monetary betrayal, Bitcoin was created to redistribute financial power back to the people - all people. In that same vein, feminism’s core principle is to eliminate the gender hierarchies that disempower women. 

Historically, men have occupied the pinnacle of socio-economic strata, controlling our access to money and other critical resources. Up until 1974, women couldn’t even get a credit card without a male co-signor. Our own mothers were denied access to that ubiquitous piece of plastic we take for granted. 

In the 80s, my mom was a successful business owner but the bank wouldn’t lend to her without my dad’s signature. Can you imagine trying to escape an abusive relationship without money or a credit score?

Men continue to dominate the world’s central banks, financial institutions, and the policies that dictate who gets a seat at the table. Financial exclusion reinforces the poverty trap and makes women extremely vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and violence. 

Clearly, crypto and feminism are inextricably linked. And in an age where the very resources we need to survive are paywalled, our collective wellness depends on dismantling systems that centralize power. Abuse thrives in the space between the haves and the have-nots. 

That’s why crypto is practically a love letter to women. It’s disrupting key legacy institutions guilty of gatekeeping the means of progress.

A Life Line in Times of Crisis

Women hold up half the sky but makeup three-quarters of the poorest people in the world. Let that sink in. And women in developing countries face the most egregious barriers to basic banking services. Across Africa, for example, at least 2 in 3 women are completely unbanked according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While the global north fares far better, roughly 5 million Canadians are still financially underserved. 

Without equal access to basic banking, it’s almost impossible to escape poverty - let alone survive a crisis. While crypto isn’t a miracle cure-all, it’s one of the most powerful tools we have. Anyone with access to the internet can use crypto to meet their basic needs.  

Borderless Transactions

Within months of the conflict, the UNHCR deployed a cryptocurrency program that provided crucial financial support to those displaced by violence. A stablecoin called USDC pegged to the U.S. dollar,  was transferred directly to their digital wallets. 

They could then quickly and easily convert it into local currencies. This made cross-border transactions seamless and helped those in need access critical necessities like food, medical care, and appropriate housing. 

Historically, conflict has a particularly devastating effect on women and girls, who are the most likely to experience food insecurity, poverty, and violence. The integration of cryptocurrency in humanitarian aid demonstrates crypto's ability to deliver swift, frictionless financial support to the most vulnerable. 

This is a profound leap forward for women who suffer disproportionately in times of crisis. Crypto can also play an essential role in keeping women and girls out of refugee camps, where they are at severe risk of sexual and gender-based violence

Poverty Reduction

The World Food Program has been using a blockchain initiative, called Building Blocks, that provides a safer, more dignified way for women and girls in Bangladesh to access aid. Traditional distribution channels expose them to an increased risk of violence and exploitation. But this innovative blockchain system enables various organizations to coordinate and deliver aid quickly and efficiently.
Cash vouchers are sent directly to families or digital wallets that can be redeemed for essential items from local outlets using QR codes. This allows women and girls to discreetly access the resources they need close to home, and without exposing their sensitive personal information. Not only does this preserve their physical safety, but also their autonomy in managing household resources.

With their basic needs met, women have disposable income to invest in things like healthcare, housing, and education. This is a powerful tool that can help entire families break the cycle of poverty, effectively enriching their communities. 

A Unique Kind Of Autonomy

Sexual and gender-based violence is the most critical issue for women because it is a direct, life-altering attack on our fundamental right to safety, equality, and dignity. The data consistently shows that 1 in 3  women in the world have suffered physical and/or sexual violence. And that’s a conservative estimate given this type of crime is notoriously under-reported. 

Victims do not get equal treatment under the law and are frequently traumatized further by the judicial process. To add insult to injury, they also face severe backlash from their family, community, and the court of public opinion.

The fear of retribution or being labelled a liar continues to be the number one reason women don’t report. And in many cases around the world, coming forward is a death sentence. 

But one woman in India is using blockchain technology to empower survivors. Noopur Tiwari is the founder of an app called Smashboard. It uses the Ethereum blockchain to help women, and all genders, report violence in a safe, encrypted space. Through the app, they can anonymously access medical, legal, psychological, and community support.

And the best part? Survivors can upload evidence like photos, medical records, screenshots, audio files, and more. This information is time-stamped and stored on the blockchain where it cannot be altered. When they’re ready to report, women can access their records anytime, from anywhere. 

This app restores a unique type of psychological autonomy that is typically stripped from women who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence. They no longer have to face a socially and emotionally dangerous process before they’re ready. This gives women the autonomy to decide when to press charges and empowers them with the tools they need to endure the process.

Levelling The Economic Playing Field

The world over, female entrepreneurs struggle disproportionately to access financing. This is despite extensive research that shows women-led organizations are generally more profitable than male-dominated organizations. 

Yet, female startups receive less than 3% of venture capital funding. The stats are significantly worse for non-white female founders. What could possibly compel sophisticated investors to ignore the data and act against their own self-interest?

Internalized bias. 

So entrepreneurial women are turning to cryptocurrency in a variety of ways. For example, an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a fundraising strategy startups can use to raise capital. By issuing their own cryptocurrency, women can access a global pool of investors.

Kelsey Cole-Dodardo, the co-founder of Adbank, successfully used an ICO to fund the blockchain-based advertising platform. Today, she is one of the most influential women in the crypto space. 

In countries where women are underbanked or completely unbanked, crypto gives them access to funding and business opportunities that are otherwise unattainable. The micro-financing organization, Grameen Foundation, has incorporated cryptocurrency to provide business funding and emergency financial assistance to small business owners. 

Kotani Pay allows entrepreneurs in several African countries to accept cryptocurrency payments and expand their reach. Users can even access their digital wallet without an internet connection.

The Development Dream Team?

According to the World Bank, almost 3 billion women do not have the same economic rights and opportunities as men. This could be the single greatest roadblock to global prosperity. Right now, women contribute to 37% of global GDP and almost 90%  are responsible for householding spending

Those numbers are telling when we consider the severity of financial exclusion unique to women. Imagine what they could do if the barriers were eliminated. Economic gender parity is estimated to create 300 million jobs worldwide and boost global per capita GDP by approximately 20%

Financial inclusion is essential for eliminating the power imbalance that harms women, girls, and their communities. It affords them the economic power to access education, healthcare, property, and meaningful employment. 

In turn, they’re more likely to invest in their children’s education, business ventures, and productive assets than their male counterparts. It also reduces the risk of violence and exploitation.

Studies show that when women are economically empowered, their communities enjoy less crime, higher literacy, better health, and more prosperity. But archaic financial structures and the men who run them are actively preventing the global community from thriving. Every day, real people are denied a happier, healthier, safer life. 

That should spark guttural outrage for anyone who values liberty. Freedom for some is freedom for none.

The decentralized nature of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is akin to bringing a gun to a knife fight. Its relevance to the well-being of women and all people cannot be ignored.

Become An Ally Today

On a positive note, crypto adoption among women has been steadily increasing. However, the space is still developing and continues to be under-regulated. Bad actors tend to target those who are new and less educated about what cryptocurrency is and how it works. Fight back by arming yourself with information so you don’t fall for common crypto scams.

Engage with crypto and learn how it works on a safe and regulated platform. Localcoin ATMs are FINTRAC-registered and regulated by Canada’s financial watchdogs. They’re easy to use and work just like a traditional bank machine. On-screen prompts guide you every step of the way. Best of all, you keep total control of your assets by storing them in your own private wallet. 

When you invest in crypto, you’re joining a financial revolution empowering millions of women around the world. Let’s keep the momentum going. Afterall…

“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back." ― Malala Yousafzai

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