Blockchain: An Unlikely Advocate for Women

by Tanvi Bajaj
Staff Writer

Blockchain has quickly risen in prominence as an impressively secure and technologically savvy way to record financial transactions. An immutable ledger of information, it was created in order to eliminate the third party source (aka the bank) that people are forced to rely on in order to transfer money. Premised on an agreement by a party of three or more people who record each transaction, blockchain is one of the safest ways to protect valuable financial information. After each “block” of transactions has been recorded, it is sealed by all members of the party using a hash function which not only keeps the information more secure, but also protects it from corruption and mishandling. 

However, blockchain is now being refocused in a surprising way: to combat domestic abuse and worldwide sexism. 

Global reports estimate that 35 percent of women worldwide, which amounts to about 1.3 billion women, have experienced either intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner.

A central reason women are unable to leave abusive relationships is because the abuser often dominates their finances, making the victims completely reliant on their partners for money. The frequency with which this occurs is shocking: 94 percent of female victims in domestic abuse situations also reported being victims of economic abuse according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

While fear of retaliation prevents some women from working altogether, others that choose to constantly find their money being taken away from them in order to maintain dependency. Mainstream platforms like GoFundMe require government-issued ID or bank information that could expose their identity, while other platforms such as Venmo or Paypal are connected to accounts that an abuser could easily gain access to.

Blockchain solves this problem by securing the identity of the user as well as the account itself so that it becomes almost impossible to infiltrate. With this technology, women would not only be able to keep their finances separate and protected, but also women who escape their abusive households would not have to worry about their identity being revealed through other platforms. Specifically, the digital trail that has become so commonplace, especially in financial transactions, would be more or less eradicated.

However blockchain goes beyond domestic abuse. According to the World Bank, the majority of people in poverty are women. Additionally, some countries’ legal systems continue to uphold laws that further subjugate women. In fact, a recent study shows that 155 out of 173 studied economies have at least one law limiting women’s economic opportunities. 

Women living in nations with high levels of lawful gender inequality are particularly stuck in a position of inferiority because their husbands and fathers often have a legal right to their finances. In some cases women are unable to access their own money due to the discrimination present within these societal structures.

Allowing women access to their own finances is a major step forward in lessening the severity of worldwide sexism. Giving women the possibility of accumulating their own financial wealth, inaccessible to others, is crucial in weakening the hold of the global patriarchy. While the law might not always imbue women with rights their male counterparts are born with, blockchain technology can serve as a foothold to a future of decreased inequality. 

While an ideal world is one in which this article wouldn’t need to be written, as long as domestic abuse and sexism continue to exist, something needs to be in place in order to mitigate their effects…and blockchain is one potential solution. As awareness continues to grow about this technology and its various uses, so too will its development. 

Along with awareness comes diversity: an increased support for women in high-tech, especially related to blockchain, is paramount. Women experience the world differently from men and, given the option, can bring an important perspective to the table that men cannot otherwise be exposed to. The privilege that men enjoy ultimately withholds certain realities from their frame of reference. Therefore, women must be involved in the creative design and decision making process in order to create a solution to a problem that primarily affects them. Right now, out of 378 venture-backed crypto and blockchain companies founded between 2012 and 2018, only about 8.5 percent had a woman on the founding team. These are statistics that must change. Women contribute not only their engineering knowledge, but also their unique point of view, which can lead to harnessing blockchain in the most effective way.

With more women actively working towards a focused solution as well as a greater awareness of the technology overall, blockchain is poised to become a game changer in the face of financial gender equality. 

Featured image courtesy of Equinix

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