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Their Stories - Women led Social Entrepreneurship in Africa and the Middle East

Their Stories - Women led Social Entrepreneurship in Africa and the Middle East
A social enterprise is an organization with two primary and interlinked goals: to generate revenue, and to achieve positive social or environmental outcomes. Many women-led social enterprises contribute significantly to the social and economic performance of their countries as they work with hundreds – in some cases thousands – of people, providing fair wages, healthcare and educational support, as well as local environmental protection measures.  This paper focuses on social enterprises in two sectors: craft and natural cosmetics. These two sectors are extremely important for women in emerging economies because of the current and future opportunities they offer.

Women’s Economic Development - Sales Agent Model

Women’s Economic Development - Sales Agent Model

Sales Agents - Key Players in the Value Chain

The common perception of the sales agent is as a monopolistic buyer who pays the lowest possible price for the produce of the poor and then reaps high margins from the sale of the produce to consumers or other commercial actors. This idea has been supported by fair trade organizations and NGOs that consequently program to circumvent the middleman to offer increased profits to poor producers.

While it is indeed often the case that middlemen are in a position to exploit poor producers, MEDA suggests that rather than eliminating the sales agent, there is value in working with them and fostering their key role within a value chain. Sales agents not only create valuable linkages to markets, but they can also be important agents of growth and empowerment through the provision of embedded services and increased information flows.

Women's empowerment and market systems: concepts, practical guidance and tools (WEAMS Framework)


This paper is also available online at the BEAM Exchange

This paper highlights the paradigm shift that must take place in order for market systems initiatives to fully embed women's empowerment and to create sustainable and equitable systems change.

Since its publication in early 2012, the original M4P WEE Framework has been adopted by programmes around the world and led to dialogue on how to prioritise and operationlise women's economic empowerment within M4P initiatives. However, much has changed in market systems programming, women's empowerment thinking and the larger development field. This report makes the case for a new framework and the paradigm shift that needs to take place in order for women’s empowerment to be mainstreamed into market systems development.

The report is structured in three chapters that can be used together or referenced separately:

  • Women’s empowerment and market systems concepts: The first chapter examines and updates the conceptual aspects of a women’s empowerment and market systems framework, supported by recent experiences in the field
  • Practical step-by-step guidance for a WEAMS framework: The second chapter offers practical guidance on women’s empowerment in market systems, using a revised life cycle approach, illustrated by mini-cases and supplemented by links to other resources
  • WEAMS tools: the third chapter includes a suite of tools that have been applied in market systems programmes; implementing agencies have graciously agreed to share these tools with others so that their experiences can benefit the wider market systems community.

High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment

Tagged in UNHLP

High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment

MEDA submission to UN Women Consultation ( UNHLP )
(June 6, 2016, Robertson Room, Global Affairs Canada)

What would you recommend as a priority action for promoting women’s economic empowerment?

Who should be held responsible for these actions?

Making markets work for women: how push and pull strategies can support women’s economic empowerment

Making markets work for women: how push and pull strategies can support women’s economic empowerment
In many countries, the inability of women to negotiate pervasive social, legal, and cultural barriers inhibits their participation in the productive sphere, particularly their entry into market systems as producers and entrepreneurs. The paper draws on case studies from projects implemented by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) in Ghana, the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Institute (ECDI) in Pakistan, and Zardozi in Afghanistan to show how practitioners can maximize 'push' and 'pull' strategies to increase the scale, impact, and sustainability of women's economic empowerment programming. Despite differences in country contexts, value chains, and sectors, the authors illustrate the importance of 'push' strategies in helping women to overcome the persistent gender-based discrimination that undermines women's understanding of markets, access to networks, self-confidence, and business success. They also show how deliberate 'pull' strategies that use commercially based incentives can increase women's incomes and business sustainability. The authors conclude that a blend of push and pull strategies will provide the most reach and impact for women's economic empowerment projects, ensuring income growth and gender equality dividends for families and communities.

Keywords: women's economic empowerment, market systems development, Ghana, Afghanistan, Pakistan

Making the Business Case: Women's Economic Empowerment in Market Systems

Making the Business Case: Women

This publication was produced for review by the United States Agency for International Development. It was prepared by Erin Markel of MarketShare Associates and Rachel Hess and Helen Loftin of MEDA for ACDI/VOCA with funding from USAID/E3's Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) project.

The paper is based on extensive research and interviews and provides the rationale that market systems facilitation practitioners can use to engage private sector firms in efforts to empower women. From identifying partners to articulating the mutually beneficial value of women's inclusion, the paper offers guidance and real-world examples to help companies empower women working at every level of the economy. It includes strategies to increase the bottom line for a wide spectrum of businesses, from multinational corporations to medium-sized firms and microenterprises in developing countries.

The Double-X Factor: Harnessing Female Human Capital for Economic Growth

The Double-X Factor: Harnessing Female Human Capital for Economic Growth

Linda Jones, Alexandra Snelgrove and Pamela Muckosy. (2006) International Journal of Emerging Markets. Emerald Insight Publishing. Vol. 1, Issue 4.

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the promotion of gender equality and the deployment of female human capital increases a country's prosperity. Women often become stakeholders in private sector development through involvement in micro and small enterprises (MSEs) – either as owners or employees. This is especially true in situations where employment opportunities are limited by geography, socio-cultural norms, and underdeveloped public and private sectors. Once women have gained experience in a microenterprise, they have expanded potential to contribute to the advancement of commerce and trade. The obstacles lie, not in understanding this concept, but in designing and implementing programs that overcome the challenges confronting disadvantaged women who are attempting to build businesses and participate in viable industries.

This paper draws on MEDA’s fifty-year history in private sector development to provide evidence that, with modest investments and good program design, even highly marginalized women can become active economic players. The first section briefly examines the concept that, with appropriate support for the small business sector, women contribute to growth in emerging markets; the middle section presents a series of case studies from MEDA’s portfolio of value chain development and microfinance projects to both illustrate the concept and to offer lessons learned regarding successful programming; the final section concludes with remarks regarding the mobilization of women’s unused capacity in the pursuit of economic prosperity in emerging markets.