MEDA launches project to advance women’s economic empowerment in Central America

Above: Smiling Wakami clients

August 15th, 2022, Waterloo, ON– MEDA is pleased to announce that it has launched the Women’s Empowerment for Central America (WE4CA) project. Through the financial support of Global Affairs Canada, this funding is part of the Government of Canada’s $67.9 million in promoting gender equality in Latin America and a pillar of the government’s $145 million investment and assistance support for Latin America and the Caribbean. The funding announcement was made at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, CA, U.S.A on June 10th, 2022. The overall project value is $5.25 million CAD, with $5 million from Global Affairs Canada and an additional $250K CAD from MEDA and its partners over a four year period.

With the support of its partners, Pro Mujer and Wakami, MEDA’s WE4CA project will contribute to poverty alleviation by promoting the socio-economic empowerment of women and girls, including rural and indigenous women. MEDA and its partners will work to enhance gender equality and address sexual and gender-based violence and harassment (SGBVH) in Central America, beginning in Guatemala.

The WE4CA project will support 5,000 women and young women entrepreneurs in Central America, including rural and indigenous women. It will focus on the regenerative agriculture (coffee) and light manufacturing (handmade products) sectors by improving women entrepreneurs’ business performances, access to gender-responsive financial services, and community services to enhance social well-being and address SGBVH.

In Central America, traditional gender roles limit women’s business success. Women are primarily responsible for care work and struggle to balance family life with business responsibilities. Indigenous women and those living in rural communities are especially challenged by these competing responsibilities. Rates of SGBVH are very high, further impacting women’s freedom to conduct business and their personal safety. Additional challenges include access to finance and markets, a lack of women-specific entrepreneurial networking spaces, and the need to improve women’s self-confidence/esteem as leaders and entrepreneurs.

Through this project, MEDA will:

  • Support women-led businesses to improve their business and technical capacities, grow their networks, increase environmental sustainability, and link with market opportunities, leveraging Wakami and Pro Mujer’s existing networks of women entrepreneurs.
  • Work with local financial service providers to develop and introduce financial products that better suit the needs of women in Central America while applying environmental sustainability practices. In addition, WE4CA will build resources and participate in events to promote Gender Lens Investing (GLI) as a model to increase access to capital for women-led SMEs in Central America.
  • Provide training and capacity building focused on supporting women and girls and working directly with men and boys to combat toxic masculinities, improve gender equality, and address SGBVH. WE4CA will also provide training and access to well-being services such as health care, nutrition, education, and financial literacy to support women. The project will also give them access to the services they need to support their families and grow their businesses.

Catherine Walker, Senior Manager, Global Programs, enthusiastically endorses the potential impact of this project on the lives of women farmers and entrepreneurs.

“Like the rest of the world, Central America struggles with women being repeatedly marginalized and prevented from entering and thriving in the labor market. Through WE4CA, we plan to change this by equipping these talented women with the means to build businesses, farms, and livelihoods that will lead to ripple effects of prosperity for years to come. This project will address the root cause of inequality and mitigate gender-based violence that prevents women and girls from fully contributing to Central American economies.”

Catherine Walker

WE4CA represents another opportunity for MEDA to make a difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs and small-scale farmers worldwide by giving them the tools they need to build livelihoods and businesses that are fulfilling and prosperous.

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  • MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

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