Women Win has been working to document and distill the lessons from their flagship programmes that have successfully integrated economic empowerment and sport. Some programmes focus on building life and employability skills and link girls and women to employment opportunities. Others create social enterprises (social purpose business or market oriented non-profit organisation) that compete successfully in the marketplace while incorporating skill building and job creation into their business models. Women Win has identified the following key success factors for economic empowerment:
- Community need meets market need. Girls and young women, with their household responsibilities, have keen awareness of the needs for products and services in their communities, but often face barriers to become the economic agents to deliver those needs. These deep insights can be the inspiration for new businesses that fill these market gaps, including in the personal and health care sectors.
Example: In Kenya, Moving the Goalposts is testing the production and sales of affordable, locally produced menstrual pads. If girls and young women are given the knowledge, access and resources, a few will become the entrepreneurs who launch and grow successful organisations that meet market and community needs.
- Economic value trumps cultural norms. If a girl can contribute to covering her financial needs or those of her household by earning money, she can change perceptions about her worth. If families can see the connection between a daughter’s education and their own economic advancement, they are more likely to allow a daughter to attend school. The same holds true for a sports programme.
Example: In Uganda, MIFUMI convinces parents to allow their daughters to attend a self-defence sport programme that incorporates skill building in value added food products. Girls learn strategies to reduce gender-based violence and earn money by helping produce a branded sesame-ground nut product that is sold into the local markets. A sports programme that contributes to a girl’s ability to generate income can dramatically increase her self worth, as well as her value within her family and community.
- Create critical mass: Power of “The Team”. It is difficult for one girl or woman to change the paradigm of long held cultural norms. However, a team of women have the power of critical mass to demand what an individual cannot.
Example: In Nepal, 3 Sisters/Empowering Women of Nepal have successfully broken the ceiling in the male dominated mountain trekking industry by teaming women guides and porters with primarily women clients. This critical mass has created safety and respect on and off the trail. Male guides have come to respect their female peers as professional colleagues and some lodges now accommodate the women by providing safe, separate spaces for women guides to sleep. Teamwork is inherent in sports programmes and serves as a natural foundation for economic empowerment by providing peer support to achieve this radical paradigm shift in cultural norms.
- Participate in viable market/industry sectors. Women are often marginalised into informal work or industry sectors that are the least profitable. Even when women compete in viable industry sectors, they are often confined in the least economically valued positions. Economic empowerment strategies should provide viable pathways within core economic sectors, such as value-added agriculture, tourism, ICT, consumer and financial products and services.
Example: In Cameroon, ASAFE trains women to compete in the ICT sector through a partnership with Cisco Networking Academy and creates jobs for these trained women by providing outsourced back office ICT services to a global market.
- Access to Capital. Microfinance has enabled millions of women to get onto the first rung on the ladder out of poverty, but many women still have limited access to capital for growth. In addition, group lending does not meet the needs of individual entrepreneurs who want to scale their businesses to compete in more profitable markets. Access to new sources of capital, including social investors offering growth and mezzanine financing, as well as related services including consumer research, market access and skill building, are needed to allow women entrepreneurs to achieve their economic potential. Sports programmes can begin by incorporating financial literacy and savings accounts into their curricula for girls and young women.
- NGOs play critical role for impact assessment. Economic empowerment for girls and young women is still a relatively new concept, especially in the context of sports programmes. Programmes can be abused as feeder strategies for elite athletes or as an excuse for cheap labour disguised as skill building. Credible NGOs can provide transparency into the quality of sport programmes and their impact on economic empowerment, through formal measurement and evaluation schemes.
- Synergy of wealth creation and development goals. Research has shown that girls will invest twice as much of their earnings into family, compared to boys. According to the World Bank, “Investing in girls and young women has shown returns in both social and economic fronts, including lower infant, child and maternal mortality rates; reduced fertility; and higher labour force participation and earnings among women...The business case for expanding women’s economic opportunities...is nothing short of smart economics.” Women Win programme partners are showcasing how a variety of sports can be drivers for sustainable development.