For decades now, women have been classified as the ‘vulnerable’ section of society. Recent statistics suggest that while women make up for half of the world’s population, they represent 70% of the poor population. The majority of women from low income communities across developing countries have a very low standard of living and face discrimination just on account of being a woman. Globally, over time, women have become recognized as drivers of progress. Empowering women has gained increasing prominence as a development priority. While there has been progress, there still exists a disparity in terms of economic and social equity for women. A larger reason for this can be attributed to the looming health inequity which has led to further income inequity.
Imagine the scene: at this very moment, a woman is being exposed to toxic fumes in her home. Another is engaged in the time consuming and dangerous daily search for fuel, taking her time away from more productive economic activities and often leading to environmental degradation in her homeland. The cause of such hazards? The basic and necessary act of cooking meals for the family. Sadly, such scenes are commonplace, as millions of households around the world still use traditional cooking practices, which are inefficient and a health hazard. It is estimated that over four million people die prematurely every year due to indoor air pollution, and women are disproportionately affected by the threat.
Janice Wilson came to Cambodia from New York City in 2008 on a corporate legal assignment and never left. Struck by the plight of sex trafficking victims and recognizing a market need for the supply of human hair extensions, Ms Wilson founded an online manufacturing and retail social enterprise called Arjuni. The company provides a combination of employment, therapy and housing for female victims of human trafficking and raises global awareness about this social injustice. This summer, Shujog ACTS (Assistance for Capacity Building and Technical Services), a technical assistance program launched by Shujog in 2013, prepared Arjuni to raise capital by sharpening its business, financial and investor materials and providing a tool to articulate and measure its impact to global investors. With this help, Arjuni can attract investment capital, scale its business and improve the lives of even more vulnerable women.
Sri Lanka, a country known for beautiful beaches and the best tasting tea in the world, has also survived a three-decade long war and a devastating tsunami in recent history. With development aid tapering due its middle-income status, Sri Lanka requires unique solutions to generate employment for its displaced youth and to realize the full potential of its natural resources. Social Enterprises (SEs), particularly those in agriculture, could provide sustainable solutions to Sri Lanka’s development problems. Here at Shujog our research shows that agricultural SEs in Sri Lanka face many challenges such as access to finance, technology, quality human resources and high value markets, as well as grappling with weak infrastructure and governance.
When Lastiana started Aliet Green back in 2009, she set out to introduce Indonesia’s indigenous commodities to the world; and through that quest, promote values of fair trade, honest respect, and empowerment among every individual working in the agriculture value chain. To date, the company has exported organic food products across the US and Europe markets, while improving the livelihoods of farmers and women in rural Indonesia. In order to assist Aliet Green in further scaling both its business operations and impact creation, the IIX team visited it in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to provide business advisory and impact assessment services.
In an interview, Ms. Kalpana Raina recalled her beginnings in impact investing. It was 2009 when she found herself on a “roadshow” with Durreen Shahnaz, founder of Shujog and IIX, to raise interest on the sector which was still in its embryonic stage. She had observed then that “despite all the credentials, despite all the access and networks that both of us have, this is going to be a very tough task.”
Financial Inclusion of women has been one of the key development priorities to ensure gender equality and empowerment. Amy Duffuor from IIX speaks to Michaela Walsh from Women’s World Banking to understand the status of financial inclusion for women.
Michaela Walsh is an activist, scholar, mentor, educator, and author. She was a pioneer woman manager with Merrill Lynch in Beirut, Lebanon, in the ’60s, first woman Partner of Boettcher in the ’70s, and in 1980, Founding President of Women’s World Banking.