As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, we are in the midst of a major cultural shift in how society thinks and talks around issues of gender equality. In parallel, there has been an rapid rise in advocacy and community mobilization. The global development community has an unprecedented opportunity to transform this momentum into action, working alongside local partners to bring about breakthroughs for women.
Seizing this historic opportunity and recognizing the power of strategic partnerships in promoting gender equality, Grameen Foundation is pleased to announce its engagement in Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE), a new, four-year global programming consortium to advance the status of women and girls worldwide. Led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), other key partners include the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and Search for Common Ground. WAGE aims to support women’s economic empowerment; improve the prevention of and response to gender-based violence; and advance women’s roles in peacebuilding, mediation, and reform processes.
Grameen Foundation will lead, with CIPE, WAGE’s work on women’s economic empowerment, bringing to bear our deep expertise in the training, education and services needed to strengthen women entrepreneurs and the institutions that serve them.
WAGE’s integrated approach to strengthening women’s empowerment recognizes the complex challenges facing women and girls. The global economic gender gap is widening, and at the current pace of change, will not close for another 217 years – a chilling increase from 170 years in 2016. Women remain underrepresented in government bodies, community leadership positions, and peacebuilding. in many countries, sexual and gender-based violence remains pervasive and is treated with impunity. In at least 155 countries, laws impede women’s economic opportunities, and in 18 countries a husband can legally prevent his wife from working. Globally, women remain overwhelmingly clustered in low-paid, poor-quality jobs, earn 24 percent less than men for work of equal value, and own a smaller portion of businesses. These challenges, coupled with women’s and girls’ unequal access to training and resources, result in less financial independence, increased likelihood of poverty, and power imbalances.
WAGE will work closely with local civil society organizations to help develop their organizational and technical skills and to build a body of evidence on promising practices to strengthen women’s empowerment. WAGE will also provide direct assistance to women and girls, including information, skills, resources, and services necessary to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy. And finally, WAGE will engage men and boys as allies in these efforts. The consortium includes more than 40 international, regional, local, and corporate resource partners with niche specializations in women’s and girls’ empowerment to complement WAGE’s broad expertise and extend WAGE’s global reach.
Grameen Foundation will lead WAGE’s first strategic initiative, “Reducing Barriers to Women’s Economic Empowerment in Central America” in El Salvador and Honduras. The initiative will research the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs in gaining access to finance and other services than can strengthen their businesses. Grameen and WAGE will then develop a package of technical assistance for partner microfinance institutions (MFIs) that serve women entrepreneurs. It will also work with Kiva, an online microloan program, to accelerate loans to women via a loan matching fund. In addition to addressing financing issues directly, WAGE will also address barriers posed by gender-based violence, conflict and insecurity, and socio-political norms that inhibit women’s abilities to start up, finance and/or grow their businesses.
As Chilean author and women’s advocate Isabel Allende once said, “Giving women education, work, the ability to control their own income, inherit and own property, benefits the society. If a woman is empowered, her children and her family will be better off. If families prosper, the village prospers, and eventually so does the whole country.”
On this International Women’s Day, we are honored and thrilled to join forces with our partners and continue to #PressforProgress together.