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Press release  |  16 June 2020

A giant leap for womankind

Through H&M Foundation’s global program with CARE, almost 270,000 women have been supported since 2014. The success of the women has been astounding, with their daily enterprise earnings increasing by an average of 91% across all countries.
Sékongo Dieneba, shea butter producer from the Ivory Coast, included in H&M Foundation's Global Program with CARE.
Arudselvi Jaicilin, tailor from Sri Lanka, included in H&M Foundation's Global Program with CARE.
Sharmini Thiyakaran, coir manufacturer from Sri Lanka, included in H&M Foundation's Global Program with CARE.
Basma Nazer, social entrepreneur from Jordan, included in H&M Foundation's Global Program with CARE.
Kirupalini Karunakaran, President of a Weaver’s Cooperative in Sri Lanka, included in H&M Foundation's Global Program with CARE.
Soro Naminata, a peanut and cotton farmer from the Ivory Coast, included in H&M Foundation's Global Program with CARE.
María Julia Ancajima Prado, Beekeeper from Peru, included in H&M Foundation's Global Program with CARE.

Despite growing up hungry or with no education, across the globe women have shown themselves to be astute in business, with their success meaning they are able to support their families and even elevate whole communities out of poverty. The women included in CARE’s Women in Enterprise program, funded by the H&M Foundation, are committed, innovative and have shown incredible resilience, having a positive impact on their local communities, not least by employing other local women to lift them out of poverty too. Entrepreneurship is also empowering and through the program CARE saw a 33% increase in women taking up leadership positions within their communities. When given better access to finance and capital, women are also strong savers and borrowers.

“Across the globe women have shown themselves to be astute in business, with their success meaning they are able to support their families and even elevate whole communities out of poverty.”

Through this program CARE has identified five key components for successful enterprise development amongst women living in low-in­come communities. These are:

  1. Strengthening skills
  2. Facilitating access to finance and capital
  3. Encouraging the power of groups and networks
  4. Improving the business environment
  5. Engaging men and boys

In the global Women Mean Business report CARE sets out successes in each area, however; below are summaries of two key components:

Access to finance and capital for women entrepreneurs is key. Bank account ownership more than doubled over three years within the program. There was also an increase in women taking out small business loans, thanks to new partnerships with finance providers, with 75% of women having repaid loans and the remaining entrepreneurs on track to repay.

Engaging men and boys: As women have taken on increasing responsibilities with their businesses, 72% still receive no help at all from male family members in the household. Not only are women now running businesses – many providing employment to other women – they continue to do all the childcare, cooking and other household chores.

Arudselvi Jaicilin is a tailor from Sri Lanka. Her husband took part in gender sensitisation training for men with the aim of involving them in the entrepreneurship of the women.

“My husband gets the children ready for school in the morning and prepares breakfast and lunch. I have also taught him to sew, so he can help me with bulk orders in the business”, Arudselvi says.


DECADES OF PROGRESS ON GENDER EQUALITY UNDER THREAT FROM COVID-19

Whilst continuing to celebrate the achievements of women entrepreneurs and setting out the essential components for successful enterprise development with women living in poverty, the havoc of the global pandemic currently going needs to be recognized.  The corona­virus and the subsequent lockdowns are having a disproportionate impact on the very women entrepreneurs who have worked so hard to lift themselves out of poverty. In Sri Lanka, 90% of women entrepreneurs from the program say their income has decreased and their supply chains are disrupted. In Guatemala, 96% say they do not have enough money for basic food items. Many of these women are now on a precipice, at risk of falling straight back into poverty. The COVID-19 crisis creates an even greater urgency for investing in women entrepreneurs.

“The international COVID-19 response needs to include a strong focus on the economic justice and rights of women. We will not stand by and watch decades worth of progress on fighting poverty and gender equality lost through this crisis."

Reintje van Haeringen, Chief Executive of CARE Netherlands

“The international COVID-19 response needs to include a strong focus on the economic justice and rights of women.  We will not stand by and watch decades worth of progress on fighting poverty and gender equality lost through this crisis. Not only do we need to invest in resources to support women, but we also need to help change entrenched social beliefs by working together with men”, says Reintje van Haeringen, Chief Executive of CARE Netherlands.

Pre COVID-19 the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take 257 years before there was economic parity between men and women. This will no doubt be pushed even further back as a result of the global pandemic. CARE cannot and will not wait.  More investment in women entrepreneurs is urgently needed, now more than ever.

Read the full report Women Mean Business by CARE.

 

CARE is a leading humanitarian and development organisation working in 100 countries to fight global poverty. CARE helps people in some of the world’s most challenging locations to establish a better existence. They fight poverty by battling inequality. They do this by providing emergency assis­tance, by facilitating women’s entrepreneurship and by stimulating partici­pation in the decision-making process. CARE also help improve communities’ resilience to the effects of climate change and natural disasters.

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