Photo Credit: Max W. Orenstein
Wednesday
Jan 20
2016
January 20, 2016

From Access to Assets: Advancing Women’s Economic Opportunity

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Over the last two decades, maternal mortality has nearly halved and the gap between the number of boys and girls enrolling in primary schools globally has almost closed. These are examples of the important progress that has been made for girls and women in the areas of health and education. In other areas however, the pace of change has been far too slow, including women’s economic participation, leadership, and security. 

These and other measurements related to gender equality are outlined in a report that the Clinton Foundation and its partners released in March last year. The Full Participation Report analyzed more than 850,000 data points to advance the evidence-based case for gender equality.

Overall, the data illuminated the benefits of gender equality to economic development, prosperity and stability are stronger than ever—but showed that critical gaps still persist. Women entrepreneurs, for instance, are on the rise, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where women are making significant contributions to the surge of entrepreneurial activity in their countries. However, this growth is sometimes out of necessity and not always opportunity. What’s more, the global gender gap in workforce participation hasn’t changed in 20 years, and the gender gap in access to bank accounts has remained stagnant in recent years, despite overall progress in financial inclusion. The data shows that women spend up to five more hours per day on unpaid domestic work than men, and that, regardless of academic achievement, women are less likely to work in executive management or decision-making roles.

These data underline why we are focused on advancing women’s economic opportunity and independence. Across the Clinton Foundation, our initiatives utilizing market-based approaches are placing the participation of girls and women at the center of their strategies. From our work with smallholder farmers in East Africa to the women entrepreneurs in our distribution enterprises in Latin America and the Caribbean, we are committed to facilitating access to opportunity in order to promote community and national economic growth, led by women. Members of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) — from governments to NGOs to the private sector — are also working to advance the economic participation of girls and women through their Commitments to Action: more than 11 million girls and women have been supported through empowerment initiatives made by members of CGI over the years and, through commitments made at the 2015 Annual Meeting, more than 6 million girls and women will be positively impacted by a variety of programs to improve quality of education and increase access to employment and skills development opportunities.

From our work with smallholder farmers in East Africa to the women entrepreneurs in our distribution enterprises in Latin America and the Caribbean, we are committed to facilitating access to opportunity in order to promote community and national economic growth, led by women.


From access to assets, the Clinton Foundation and CGI members are working with partners around the world to advance women’s economic opportunities in sustainable and innovative ways. For example, the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) is working with over 85,000 neighboring smallholder farmers in Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania — more than 55% of whom are female — providing access to quality inputs, climate-smart agronomic training, and markets. This support allows women smallholder farmers to experience significant increases in yields, in turn improving their productivity and profitability and generating important ripple effects across their families and communities. In Malawi, CDI recently conducted a series of focus group discussions to learn more about female participation in agriculture and in their communities—and plans to replicate this study in Rwanda and Tanzania. Based on the findings, CDI will improve how and when it engages with female farmers—empowering them to be decision makers, market participants, and leaders in their families and communities.  

The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), leveraging a social enterprise model that takes the best of non-profit and for-profit organizations to generate both social impact and financial returns, is equipping women in Peru and Haiti with sales skills training and consigned products for an innovative last-mile distribution system. More than 900 active women entrepreneurs are selling fortified food, personal care items, and other essential products to rural and peri-urban communities through CGEP’s Chakipi enterprises — increasing their incomes and providing important, life-changing goods that are otherwise hard or impossible to access.

Recognizing that comprehensive engagement yields greater results than a single intervention, the full-cycle investing model used by the Clinton Foundation in Haiti looks at the entirety of applicable value chains for local enterprises to expand financial opportunity for Haitian entrepreneurs from production to purchase. The Clinton Foundation in Haiti has provided access to grant support, financial literacy, solar energy, and new markets for women entrepreneurs and farmers across the country, ensuring such access leads to marked improvements in financial bottom lines, incomes, and livelihoods. The Foundation’s support of Papillon Enterprise, a local woman-owned artisan business, has helped expand its business, diversify its product line, and meet new orders from local and international buyers. With sales having increased from $100,000 in 2010 to an estimated $1.2 million by the end of 2015, Papillon is spurring economic growth through the artisan sector and generating measurable impact for its 300 employees, more than 70% of whom are women.

Members of the Clinton Global Initiative community are also actively focused on women’s empowerment, skills development, and financial inclusion. One such example is the Commitment to Action made by the Cheri Blaire Foundation for Women, Visa Inc., and their partners to train 2,500 women entrepreneurs to become mobile money agents in the retail network of First Bank Nigeria. Through this project, the Cherie Blair Foundation is working to expand access to both entrepreneurship opportunities for women and financial services for the unbanked. With start-up capital and a phone to conduct branchless banking, each mobile money agent also receives training and capacity building. As of March 2015, more than 2,100 women had received both agent training and business capacity building.

Gender equality is not only important to women and girls — it is critical to families, communities, and societies.


Gender equality is not only important to women and girls — it is critical to families, communities, and societies. By advancing the economic participation of girls and women, including increasing their access to skills-based training, capital, and new markets, as well as ensuring their health, security, and education, we know that poverty decreases, gross national product grows, and families prosper. Progress is indeed possible, and we look forward to a day when all girls and women have full and equal rights and opportunities.