How can we strengthen collaboration in support of women and girl empowerment?

Photo: Standard Chartered GOAL initiative, Nigeria.

Empowering women and girls has become a global priority for the development community. Not only do women and girls face a significant set of disadvantages, with many girls forced to leave school to look after their families or compelled to engage in hazardous working environments, girls are particularly at risk because of lower rates of education and literacy. At the same time, educating and empowering girls and women has a significant multiplier effect on economic growth. It leads to increased prosperity not just for individuals but for their communities and their societies. Women, the main caretakers of their children, tend to reinvest 90% of what they earn into their families, resulting in better education, health and nutrition outcomes.

A growing number of companies are also prioritising women empowerment – either engaging through the core business, through social investment and at the policy level, often in partnership with donors and civil society. These type of collaborative arrangements increase opportunities to innovate and also enable more sustainable impact at scale. And as the number of players supporting women and girl empowerment grows, so too does the scope for consolidating and co-ordinating activities to reduce duplication of effort, process inefficiencies, and competition for the time and commitment of local stakeholders, especially government representatives.

Against this backdrop, Business Fights Poverty has teamed up with Standard Chartered to explore the question: “How can we strengthen collaboration in support of women and girl empowerment?”. Key questions include:

1. Where are the greatest opportunities to engage business in support of girl and women empowerment?
2. Where are the innovations happening to empower women and girls, and what are we learning about what works?
3. How can we overcome silos and fragmentation of effort to achieve greater impact?

Editor's Note:

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great initiative, I will surely join. there is a clearly a business case for women's inclusion.

The challenge I see is how to involve SMEs. Secondly my experience is that many companies consider attention to 'women' a social topic. So there is need for more tangible evidence building.

We will adress these issus also in a webinar tomorrow, 4-5 CET (NL time). This is on women's inclusion in the agro-food sector with speakers from Keyna and Ethiopa.

Please see

The webinar is part of our Women as Inclusive Business partners initiative.

Nelleke van der Vleuten- BoP Innovation Center/ ICCO Cooperation

Our research into Increasing access to credit for micro and small and women entrepreneurs brought out the urgent need and importance of financial literacy for women. Presently most Government and financial stakeholder are implementing financial inclusion policies but women and girls still lack financial literacy management.

Hello everyone. I'm so glad to be participating on the panel on behalf of Catalyst at Large as well as the SPRING Accelerator and in my role as Senior Adviser at Criterion Institute working on (re)Value Gender. I do some of my work on this at ClearlySo as well.

I'd like to point people to a few great resources on this topic:

The Business Case for Womens Economic Empowerment: An Integrated Approach by Witter Ventures, ICRF, Dalberg and Oak Foundation

Incubate, invest, impact: building and investing in high impact enterprises for empowering women and girls by Katherine Miles for GIZ

Looking forward to this discussion!

Panelist Suzanne Biegel, myself and other partners are working on a new initiative to combine the power of business to empower girls.

It's called SPRING.

We are looking for revenue-generating organizations who have products that help girls learn, earn, save and/or keep girls safe. The idea is to help these business accelerate their models, scaling to reach more girls. First countries are Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Register to learn more about the SPRING accelerator and application process at Applications open in January - but we'll be posting the application soon!

Kimberly Reott - Context Partners

Hi Nelleke - our SPRING project is focused on Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Visit us at We are looking to find and accelerate SMEs that want to grow and scale - to impact more girls. And a core part of our work is also to tell the success stories - so that biz models that impact girls can inspire others!

The intersection with larger and more established businesses to get involved in SPRING is to bring their intrapreneurial projects with a girls and young women's lens, their corporate resources (financial, intellectual, technical, social, and employee volunteering/mentoring capacity) to the table, and to look at opportunities for innovation and learning coming from these ventures INTO their businesses. Corporates who are supporting NGOS and nonprofit initiative that are about women and girls empowerment can and should be thinking about how to encourage those organisations to engage with their unique resources and knowledge, in projects like SPRING. Part of what we are not doing as well as we could, a a field, is connecting dots between corporate programmes, nonprofit programmes, and entrepreneurial incubators... but we CAN...

Cannot wait to engaging with all of you today during the Business Fights Poverty panel discussion on women and girl empowerment.

Thanks Standard Chartered for sponsoring and thanks to all of you who make a conscious effort to spend some of your money with women business owners!

Very excited to join this discussion. Just wanted to share how research commissioned by TrustAfrica and IDRC showed importance of regulation for opportunities, particularly for women, and how governments can lead change. Research findings in Botswana led the government to simplify and decentralize business registration. Entrepreneurs can now avoid long queues by registering through regional offices. The government also made it easier for entrepreneurs to get loans after a research team found that applicants — especially women — were discouraged by a requirement that they hold a trading licence. Licences can now be bought after securing a loan.

Thanks Suzanne, for the link to the report on the business case for including women.

We need to expand the group of change-makers. How to promote companies to make the first step or that they expand their individal activities to a more systemic approach. How can we help to create the 'sense of urgency'?

Want people to see a few more great resources for collaboration... not sure if we will have anyone online from Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves but its a great place for corporates, ngos, accelerators, investors, donors to come together from a women/girls perspective and one of the projects I've invested in, Calvert Foundation's WIN WIN project, is a place where that comes together from an investment standpoint. The Alliance is also providing gender training for participants ... a key tool is training/educating actors across silos...

with support from companies like Eileen Fisher (great woman-founded, women-led business!), Bank of America, and others

hoping to also connect this to SPRING to see where we can find opportunities in the clean fuels/clean cookstoves arena with an adolescent girls economic empowerment angle !

Hello everyone! Looking forward to joining the discussion on behalf of the BRAC team in London, as part of the Strategic Partnerships group.

BRAC runs it's ELA (Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents) Clubs globally as one of the early implementers of the Nike/Girl Effect. The aim is to empower adolescent girls both in terms of entrepreneurial and business skills as well as socially. We provide life skills (health, family,etc), financial literacy, vocational training and provide microloans through our MF services.

Can't wait for this discussion!

Hi everyone. I am delighted to participate and discuss how we enable adolescent girls globally. It's been wonderful to watch global momentum converge on this topic, but it is important for us to reflect how we defragment all the parties who work on this issue. So I am so glad we are speaking about partnerships today. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute.

Hello everyone! Excited to joining in the discussion on behalf of Mercy Corps.

Agree with the comments above regarding women's access to financial products and services. The IFC found a $285 billion gender gap in capital access for women-owned businesses.This includes capital but must include a wide-range of products – savings, insurance, payments, etc. Looking at not just access but also quality, usage, and impact.

We often find women's lack of sufficient collateral and requirements a limiting factor to accessing formal finance. However, when we (including businesses) look deeper this lack of collateral can often be tied to women’s lack of property rights globally. Only 1% of the world’s land is owned by women and girls.

I recommend the new systemic review released earlier this month on ‘The Effect of Microcredit on Women’s Control over Household Spending in Developing Countries’. Great assumptions about what microcredit can and can’t do -

Welcome to this written online discussion! We're joined by a great panel to explore how to strengthen collaboration in support of women and girl empowerment. We'll work through the questions above, but please feel free to add your own.

I'd like to start by asking our panellists to introduce themselves.

Hello everyone, I'm also very excited to be part of the panel for this online discussion. At Coca-Cola, we are working toward an ambitious goal to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs in our value chain around the world by the year 2020 – also known as our 5by20 initiative. I'm the Head of Public Affairs for South Africa and I lead our 5by20 partnership program with UN Women in South Africa.

Listening in with great interest! I have worked with Plan and am a big fan!

Alan Upstone, metaLAB. Leading on the canDOERS community

Looking forward to this discussions. I am representing Mercy Corps - a global international development agency working in 40 countries. Mercy Corps takes a market-systems approach which includes strong shared value partnerships with the international, national, and local businesses. Last year, Mercy Corps worked with 18.4 million women and girls.

Hi Maria Bobenrieth from Women Win - really excited to be part of this great discussion