While impact investing has become a buzzword in global development in recent years, the concept and practice had been around for decades before the sector even had a name. To take one perhaps under-recognized example, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) was launched as an investment club in 1953, when a group of North American Mennonite business people joined together to support the development of businesses in Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.
Subcategories from this category:International Women's Day Series
blog.November 18th, 2017, marked a milestone for MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women project (GROW). Together, Chiefs, Queen Mothers, landowners, community leaders, GROW’s Lead Farmers, Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Women in Agricultural Development, Male Gender Activists (MGAs) and opinion leaders met in Wa, Ghana to discuss the key land tenure issues for women. This event catalyzed a public discussion on the importance of land tenure for women and its impact on sustainable economic empowerment, resource management and food security. To read more about the background of this event, and why land tenure matters for women, visit this
Last month, I had an amazing opportunity to attend the Women's World Banking 2017 Making Finance Work for Women Summit (MFWW). Over 300 participants gathered in Dar es Salaam from across the African continent and the globe, representing various organizations, institutions, and firms, to engage and deliberate on key trends, topics, opportunities and challenges concerning women's financial inclusion. I was inspired by the speakers and panelists who shared their stories, insight and vision for the future of women's financial inclusion.
In this post, I want to share three key takeaways I have reflected on after returning from the Summit. My hope is that they give a glimpse of the event and speak to my own learning about the state of women's financial inclusion and what the future may hold.
White foam washes gently up the beach on an idyllic Mediterranean island. In the darkness, a young woman struggles ashore. Clearly exhausted, she is missing many of her heavier clothes, sacrificed to the struggle to stay alive in the dark sea. But she is on shore now, and safe. For now. One treasure she has clung to – a small plastic bag with a few things tightly wrapped in it. It is the first thing she reaches for when she reaches the beach. Relief floods her body when she discovers that not only does she have the bag, but it is dry inside. The old Huawei smart phone shows a low battery warning and won’t start.
*Update! To read about the results from MEDA's Agricultural Land Tenure Forum, visit this blog*.
On Saturday, November 18th, 2017, MEDA’s GROW project (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) will be hosting a Land Tenure Forum in Wa, Ghana. The goal of this event is to bring together opinion leaders to discuss the issues surrounding land tenure for women. Attendees include Chiefs and Queen Mothers, landowners, GROW’s Lead Farmers, Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Women in Agricultural Development, and various community members. A well-informed advocate on formalized land agreements will facilitate the event and lead the discussion on the importance of land ownership for women, and its sustainable impact on economic empowerment in GROW communities.
MEDA is very excited for this Forum as it is an important step towards promoting land rights for GROW women. Women in Ghana’s Upper West Region understand that the return on investment into their small plots of land is lost with constant changes from one plot to another.
In August 2017, MEDA and Cuso International finalized another successful cycle of the Youth Entrepreneurship Business Support Plan (YEBSP) as part of the YouLead (Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development) project. YouLead’s overall goal is to enhance sustainable economic prosperity for 7,000 young people who reside in 18 Local Government Areas situated in Nigeria’s Cross River State. The YEBSP grants are just one of the many activities designed to achieve this goal.
This post was originally published on Next Billion
- What is a Social Enterprise?
A social enterprise is an organization with two primary and interlinked goals: to generate revenue, and to achieve positive social or environmental outcomes. In attempting to balance profit generation with social goals, a social enterprise straddles the private and volunteer sectors.1
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA hosted a poster competition between its international projects to highlight the gender equality and women's economic empowerment work MEDA does around the world. In total, there were 11 posters submitted from MEDA's various projects, and each one of them highlighted how the project is working towards gender equality by showcasing a partner, lead firm or woman who is being bold for change in their community.
Mo Bi is one of our female-lead farmers on MEDA’s Improving Market Opportunities for Women (IMOW) project in Myanmar. This means that Mobi is a model farmer who serves as a leader to a group of women farmers and demonstrates good agricultural and business practices to her community. Along with other lead farmers, Mo Bi receives technical training, leadership and mentorship training, and are linked to savings to improve their financial literacy. MEDA works with key facilitating partners, like METTA in Shan state of Myanmar, and provides technical support and gender sensitization trainings for staff and key market actors. These key market actors include: agricultural extension workers, input suppliers and commodity collectors, who are all members of the IMOW community, but may not have engaged with women before working with MEDA on IMOW.
World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis.
One of my first experiences with global inequality was related to water. In a remote part of the Maasai Mara in Kenya, I met mothers and daughters who were obligated to make an arduous and long walk to the river, daily, to collect dirty water and carry it alone back to the homestead to prepare meals, bathe, clean, wash laundry, garden and nourish livestock. This story is not an anomaly. The world over, rural women and girls often bear the burden of collecting water for their families. Globally, it is estimated that women and girls collectively spend 200 million hours every day, or individually 6 hours a day, fetching water. In terms of distance, in Africa and Asia, it is estimated that girls and children walk an average 3.7 miles a day to fetch water.1 As a result, women and girls are at a higher risk of violence and health hazards due to isolation along rural routes, issues related to menstruation and women’s hygiene, along with heightened exposure to diseases found in unclean water.2
The Jordan Valley Links project, implemented by MEDA, supports 25,000 women and youth in the Jordan Valley to seize new opportunities in targeted sectors and to become economic actors. The goal of the project is to increase the contribution by women and youth to Jordan’s economic growth. The project focuses on three sectors: clean technology, food processing and community-based tourism. Over five years (2016-2021), MEDA will improve women and youth’s entrepreneurial and business acumen through capacity building and market linkages; and working with communities, families, and market actors to reduce entry for enterprise development for women and youth. One of the activities of the project is to highlight roles models within the areas that we operate and here is one of those stories of gender parity.
Since the Libyan revolution and ensuing conflict erupted in 2011, damage, theft, and alleged sabotage has plagued the infrastructure in Libya resulting in power outages and basic challenges for a stable life.
Electricity is essential for a stable life. We have grown accustomed and formed adaptive solutions for the increasing number of rolling brownouts over the last three years, with outages ranging from two hours up to twenty hours at a time. In January 2017, twenty hours without electricity became the daily norm for some of us and keeping warm became an exercise of the absurd - if it were not tragic - as we were dressed for the “north pole” in our homes, but we were not able to keep food and medicine cold. Libya is also dependent on electric pumps for water, which adds to the challenges of daily life. Water travels from thousands of kilometers away in the south through the Great Man Made River pipelines, and without electricity, there is no way for the water to reach the tanks in our homes. Adding to these woes is a shortage of cash, which has prevented ordinary citizens from accessing their money in banks, plus a skyrocketing foreign exchange market and an inflation index of over 29% that has made accessing alternative means of electricity, water, and fuel nearly impossible.
Empowering women in rural, northern Ghana—where nearly 80% of women have never attended school, is no small feat. With some smart marketing and production support for farmers, agribusinesses are now buying the idea.
Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) is a six-year project funded by both the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC). The main goal of the project is to improve food security for families in the Upper West Region of Ghana by assisting women farmers to increase productivity, link to sustainable markets, and improve nutrition practices.
The implementation of the GROW project started in 2013 with a goal of reaching 20,000 women farmers using a value chain approach. Through a mixed methods data gathering approach including interviews and surveys, MEDA recently developed and published a case study that examines the role of market actors and their profitability as they have engaged with the GROW project and female farmers. This blog shares some of the results.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the fourth in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
We all know what gets measured gets done. If we are measuring attendance at a particular training, the training will take place and will likely be well-attended. If we are measuring adoption of a new farming technique, chances are there will be efforts to support farmers in adopting. If we are measuring redemption of equipment discount vouchers, there will be activities in place to distribute the vouchers and disseminate information on the merits of the equipment. When the targeted outcome is women’s economic empowerment, having clear indicators for measurement is equally important, but far more complex. How do we know we are making a real difference in the lives of our female clients? Are we moving the needle?
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the third in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
Catherine Sobrevega (center) in Afghanistan, with her previous MEDA’s project, Through the Garden Gate, in Afghanistan.
I always look forward to International Women’s Day (IWD) as it is celebrated differently in form and structure worldwide. In the Philippines, where I am from, I cannot remember any celebration that I have been part of. I am sure there is an IWD celebration somewhere, but it is mostly celebrated by women’s right activist groups — not by ordinary people or companies. This is likely because men and women treat one another equally. I grew up knowing that there is no difference between us – all of us can go to school, all of us have access to information and opportunities.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the second in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
How do you effectively reach a majority of people to discuss financial inclusion in Nigeria? Mark Akpan, Program Manager Financial Inclusion
Radio is the main source of news and information in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. During my January 2017 visit to the YouLead project, implemented with Cuso International, Mark Akpan and I had the opportunity to visit Hit FM Cross River State to talk about Access to Finance for youth. We shared our understanding and approach towards addressing gender inequalities in this sector.
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development.This is the first in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
Woman rice farmer in Myanmar
Climate change looms as a huge factor in poverty alleviation, and thus an issue MEDA is grappling with. It’s something that hits poorest people the hardest, since they have the fewest resources to prepare for and rebuild after climate shocks. The World Bank estimates it will push 100 million additional people into poverty by 2030. The United Nations says climate change is also a potential driver of conflict, a “threat multiplier.” Among its consequences: food riots and unrest triggered by spiraling prices; clashes between farmers over land and water; competing demands on dwindling water supplies for irrigation or for cities.
FIFA’s U-17 Women’s World Cup was held in Jordan this past October. For the first time ever, these games were held in the Middle East and in a country that is currently surrounded by other nations experiencing much conflict and instability. In fact, the stadium in Irbid is mere miles away from the Syrian border and residents can often hear the sounds of bombs and artillery fire from across the border. I happened to have the good fortune to be in Jordan for the games and witness how young women footballers are regarded in a traditionally conservative part of the world. The experience was very emotional for me for a number of reasons.
Today marks the beginning of two important global campaigns, 16 Days of Activism (Nov 25-Dec 10) and the White Ribbon Campaign (Nov. 25). Both global campaigns advocate for the eradication of gender-based violence and, broadly, the empowerment of women.
In GROW, our project in Ghana, the team engages with male gender activists to promote equity with respect to caregiving, fatherhood, and division of labor.
When is a trade fair more than a trade fair?
In September, Trade + Impact held its first Summit in Morocco, bringing together women-run social enterprises, international buyers and potential investors. The Summit featured products from two key sectors: handicrafts and agribusiness for cosmetics. These sectors were chosen because they employ significant numbers of women, and additionally, have huge growth potential. Markets for each of the sectors are estimated at USD 30 billion, and global demand is growing.
Like many sectors, handicrafts and natural cosmetics face significant barriers to profitability and growth. Structural barriers, such as tariffs and taxes on inter-African trade, present challenges. Reliability of shipping and transportation cause delays in deliveries and increased costs. In addition, these sectors are very fragmented, with large numbers of small producers working in relative isolation. Access to materials is an ongoing challenge, particularly sustainable materials. Producers working in handicrafts and cosmetics face challenges in accessing financing, and very few of those attending the Summit had ever accessed a loan, outside of money borrowed from friends or family members.