Women Win has been working to document and distil the lessons learned by our programme partners in successfully integrating economic empowerment and sport. Some programmes focus on building life and livelihood skills, and then link girls to employment opportunities. Others create social enterprises that compete successfully in the marketplace while incorporating skill building and job creation into their business models. Regardless of your approach, Women Win has identified the following key success factors for economic empowerment.
Aligned Community and Market Needs
AGYW, 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 who deliver those needs. These deep insights can be the inspiration for new businesses that fill market gaps, including in the personal health care sectors. For example, in Kenya, Moving the Goalposts set up a business centre and offers office services, such as photocopying, hall and PA hire to the community. In addition, it is testing the production and sales of affordable, locally produced menstrual pads. If AGYW 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.
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. 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. For example, in Uganda, MIFUMI convinced parents to allow their daughters to attend a self-defence sport programme that incorporated skill building in the production of value added food products. Girls learned strategies to reduce gender-based violence and earn money by helping produce a branded sesame-ground nut product for sale at the local markets.
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 together demand what an individual cannot. For example, in Nepal, 3 Sisters/Empowering Women of Nepal have successfully broken the glass ceiling in the male dominated mountain trekking industry, by teaming women guides and porters with primarily women clients. This has led to 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 guides by providing them with safe, separate spaces to sleep. Moving the Goalposts, in Kenya, has Savings Groups running as a part of their League Field system. The team approach to savings, lending, and starting enterprises has already dramatically impacted the lives of members. Some groups have become dormant as girls return to school, having saved the money needed to pay school fees. Teamwork is inherent in sports programmes and serves as a natural foundation for economic empowerment by providing peer support to achieve radical paradigm shifts in cultural norms.
Viable Industry Sectors
Women are often marginalised into informal work or to the least profitable industry sectors. Even when women compete in viable industry sectors, they are often confined to the least economically valued positions. Economic empowerment strategies should provide viable pathways within core economic sectors, such as value-added agriculture, tourism, ICT, and consumer and financial products and services. In India, the Naz Foundation is focusing on making AGYW job-ready, building their ICT, financial, and office (including English) skills to serve the fast growing services and IT sectors. The Naz Foundation partners with a job placement agency and helps AGYW find employment by building networking skills.
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 – and related services such as consumer research, market access, skill building and mentorship are needed to allow young women entrepreneurs to achieve their economic potential. Sports programmes can begin by incorporating financial literacy and savings accounts into their curricula for AGYW.
Quality Impact Assessment
Economic empowerment for AGYW 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. The Naz Foundation and Moving the Goalposts have both invested in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to determine the impact of their Peer Leadership approaches. They have also scrutinised their M&E data to help them identify new lessons and build their strategic plan for future growth. This analysis is the basis of the Naz Foundation’s optimisation of the facilitator (peer leaders and coaches) to player ratio needed to lower cost per participant (CPP) and scale their programme. Credible NGOs can provide evidence of the quality of sport programmes and their impact on economic empowerment, through formal measurement and evaluation schemes.
Investment in Girls
Research has shown that girls will invest twice as much of their earnings in their families, 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.