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Striving towards equal societies and breaking cycles of exclusion fuels sustainable economies and benefits societies and humanity at large. Together with humanitarian organisation CARE, the H&M Foundation is investing in women’s economic empowerment by equipping women in poor communities with the tools they need to start, develop and grow their businesses.

© Eric Kampherbeek

If the world is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need a quantum leap in women’s economic empowerment (WEE). Economies lose out when a substantial part of the population cannot realize its full potential. Furthermore, when women have earnings on their own, they tend to invest a bigger proportion of their money in their families and communities than men do.

H&M Foundation has been working with CARE since 2014. In total 167,500 women have been reached so far, in our Global Program with as well as in a local project in Ethiopia which innovatively focused on the development of a small group of women-led social enterprises in Addis Ababa.

Global Program In seven countries

In our Global Program we focus on women from low-income communities in Guatemala, Ivory coast, Jordan, Peru, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Yemen. The program ensures that women have what they need to become successful and empowered entrepreneurs, and to further develop and grow their businesses. By supporting them with skills training and other relevant tools, they can go from running businesses with low margins to start to increase their margins. Some will be able to employ people or take loans to further expand or invest.

On a global level, H&M Foundation also drive transformative change by addressing structural barriers and promote new policies. During 2020 CARE will present an evidence-based report to influential stakeholders, which will showcase the economic and social value of investing in enterprise development with women from low-income communities.

Women are encouraged to rely on their inner strength and take more control of their lives.

The impact of this program goes far beyond earning an income. Women are encouraged to rely on their inner strength, and they start making decisions within households and communities and take more control of their lives. They are a catalyst for positive change in their societies, also for the generations to come.

Local project in Ethiopia

Focusing on women living in the slums of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, our local project with CARE, which took place 2015-2018, not only became about how to develop profitable enterprises with the target population, but extended to how to create and grow positive social impact in the communities in a sustainable way. The women expressed how aware they are of not only their own development, and their family’s, but also their mark on the community; how can they make a positive impact in the community that they live in?

The project achieved great results. 5,000 women were reached with basic business training, 665 women-led enterprises received advanced business development support and 50 social businesses were established. CARE also supported these women to set up and run their own savings and loans associations.

As a result, the women improved the quality of their enterprises, increased their income and, ultimately, were able to take out and repay loans. By the end of the project the women included in the project stated that they had increased their income by 500% and whereas about 70% of the target group did not have any savings in the beginning of the project, this number was reduced to 3.6% in 2018.