Many girls and young women are already involved in the development and production of many consumer products and services, stemming from their traditional household roles. However, much of this economic activity occurs in the informal market through very small enterprises, providing benefits only for the immediate household.
According to the International Center for Research on Women 2008, One Woman = One Business:
“In many of the least developed and developing countries, 90 percent of all enterprises, including those in the informal sector, are micro and small enterprises (MSEs). Women’s share of these businesses is large, but primarily among micro – rather than small – enterprises and concentrated in activities traditionally dominated by women such as food vending, informal processing and catering, handicrafts, and tailoring. Micro finance loans are too small and group methods of lending do not meet their needs as private entrepreneurs, meaning that improved financing services are essential. Equally important, women need non-financial services – such as market information and access, management and financial training, peer networks and leadership skills – to access greater economic opportunities. Vocational education programmes targeting women often have focused on low-return gender stereotyped crafts and services, frequently saturating local markets, without providing market-responsive entrepreneurship and business management skills training. In a globalising economy, women entrepreneurs and business managers can thrive only if they have access to information, training and business development services that will enable them to succeed in competitive labour markets and fluctuating economic conditions.”
One industry with high growth is the ICT industry. However, women's participation in ICT-related employment is stalled at entry-level positions. According to The World Bank publication, Social Development Publication – ICT Applications for Women and Men:
“[The] participation of women in higher-skilled, higher-ranking, and higher-paid positions [computer science and engineering] remains very low, with a progressive decline of the number of women in ICT-related employment at increasing levels of complexity. Many women operate computers, largely for word processing and related office programmes and for data entry. Many fewer are programmers and systems analysts and the participation of women in ICT design and development is generally low. Concentrated in the low or unskilled end of employment, women are not getting the training that the new jobs require.”
Women Win programme partners encourage young women and girls to produce goods and services of higher market value by transforming commodities into value added goods, increasing participants’ knowledge of markets and market access to high value industry sectors.
Menstrual Pad Production
In Kenya, Moving the Goalposts tested the production and sale of affordable, locally produced menstrual pads.
Moving the Goalposts is a community-based organisation located in the rural Kilifi district of Coast Province in Kenya. It started in 2001 with a sport and development project in Kilifi, with less than 100 girls. Now more than 3,000 adolescent girls participate in weekly practices, tournaments, and ongoing leagues. Participants are encouraged to be active in leadership roles such as committee membership, coaching, refereeing, first aid, peer education and counselling. Each week, MTG girls lead peer education sessions in primary schools in the area, addressing reproductive health and other issues affecting girls. Peer education and counselling are also regularly available at practices and league games.
During the years, MTG started focusing on developing economic empowerment opportunities for girls, including savings projects for out-of-school girls, and leadership awards to start small businesses. One such project was the idea to create income-generating opportunities for girls through distributing papyrus sanitary pads in their region. If girls and young women are given the knowledge, access and resources they need, some will become the entrepreneurs who launch and grow successful organisations that meet market and community needs.
Founder Sarah Forde has researched and published a book in 2008 based on the MTG girls' experiences, entitled ‘Playing by Their Rules: Coastal Teenage Girls in Kenya on Life, Love, and Football’.
In Uganda, MIFUMI worked with women to grow, process, package and sell ground nuts. They promoted entrepreneurship by encouraging women to buy shares in the business.
MIFUMI is a women-led organisation, working to end domestic violence. Based in Uganda, they work with GBV survivors and grassroots organisations to increase support and enable the more effective promotion of women's rights. It is an internationally recognised for its successful campaign and referendum against bride price in Uganda, a major contributing factor to violence and women's subordination. In 2007, MIFUMI became interested in the concept of using sport for women's rights, and they ran exploratory karate training for 30 girls in a MIFUMI primary school.
The programme grew to include an economic empowerment component. MIFUMI convinced parents to allow their daughters to attend a self-defence sport programme that incorporated skill-building in value added food products. Girls learned strategies to reduce gender-based violence and earn money by helping produce a branded sesame-ground nut product that was sold into the local markets. By taking part in a sport programme that contributes to a girl’s ability to generate income, her self-worth, as well as her value within her family and community, can dramatically increase.