MEDA, Pro Mujer, and Wakami are collaborating through the WE4CA project, funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to enhance the empowerment of women and girls in Central America, starting in Guatemala.
The goal of WE4CA is to contribute to poverty alleviation by promoting the socio-economic empowerment of women and girls, including rural and indigenous women, as a strategy to enhance gender equality and address sexual and gender-based violence and harassment (SGBVH) in the Central American region, starting in Guatemala.
The project will support 5,000 women and young women in Central America, including rural and indigenous populations, operating in the regenerative agriculture (focused on coffee) and light manufacturing (focused on handmade products) sectors. WE4CA will further improve business performance, access to gender-responsive financial services, and access to community services to improve social well-being and address SGBVH.
In Central America, traditional gender roles hinder women’s business success. Women are primarily responsible for family maintenance and care work in the home and many struggle to balance family life with business responsibilities as they seek to access health care, educate their children, and care for their families, particularly indigenous women and those living in rural communities. Rates of SGBVH are extremely high, further impacting women’s freedom of movement to conduct business and their personal safety. Additional challenges include access to finance, and markets, an absence of women-specific entrepreneurial networking spaces, and the need to improve women’s self-confidence/esteem as leaders and entrepreneurs.
Wakami is a social enterprise with a strong network of women working in the handmade and regenerative agriculture sectors in Guatemala, with a focus on rural and indigenous women. It has an established supply chain and market linkages that can be further leveraged to enhance women’s access to market opportunities and healthy homes. Pro Mujer has an extensive history of serving women entrepreneurs in Latin America with access to finance, entrepreneurship, health, and gender-based programming to improve women’s well-being and gender norms. In Central America, there is also strong potential to leverage MEDA’s extensive experience in Gender Lens Investing (GLI) and gender-mainstreaming approaches to improve access to finance for women-led businesses.
To address the challenges facing women and girls, MEDA and its partners will take a three-pronged approach leveraging the expertise and experience of each partner. First, WE4CA will provide support to women-led businesses to improve their business and technical capacities, grow their networks, increase environmental sustainability, and link them with market opportunities, leveraging Wakami and Pro Mujer’s existing networks of women entrepreneurs.
Recognizing the barriers that women face in accessing financing, at both the entrepreneur and small and medium enterprise (SME) level, WE4CA will 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 develop resources and participate in events to promote GLI as a model to increase access to capital for women-led SMEs in Central America.
Finally, WE4CA will provide training and capacity building focused on empowering 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 wellbeing services such as health care, nutrition, education, and financial literacy to empower women and give them access to the services they need to support their families and grow their businesses.