What happens when you think of poor women as economic powerhouses? The world changes.

by 31st Jan 2019
Marie Melia in Haiti with a basket of fresh vegetables she purchased with Kore Lavi vouchers. Marie Melia in Haiti with a basket of fresh vegetables she purchased with Kore Lavi vouchers.

We usually think of women in CARE’s projects as beneficiaries or participants, but they are so much more powerful than that. Women who work in CARE’s programmes use their skills to build businesses, create jobs, keep fresh produce in markets, and respond to emergencies. Let’s flip the narrative. Instead of pointing to these women as people CARE helps, why don’t we treat them as the powerhouses they are? They are helping to grow national economies, sometimes for as little as 5 cents a week.

This blog takes 8 projects in different countries to show off the economic power of women in CARE programmes. We have so many statistics about this and I narrowed it down to the number of jobs women are creating. Clearly, this calls for more digging to see what the stats are telling us about other parts of the economy.

What have these women accomplished?

  • In Haiti’s Kore Lavi project, 43% of fresh food vendors and 61% of food producers have hired additional labor to help with their businesses, creating needed jobs in the community.
  • In Guatemala’s Nourishing the Future programme, there was a 62 percentage point increase in the number of farmers who could access credit to invest in labour, among other things.
  • With less than $10 per job created, Rwanda’s Job Creation project worked with entrepreneurs in Rwanda to create nearly 100,000 jobs and improve business profits by 75%. It also helped close the gap between men and women.
  • Egypt’s IEIDEAS’ final report estimates that the project will have added 10,000 jobs to Egypt’s economy in the next 5 years, if trends continue as they have been since 2011.
  • PROSPECT in Zambia created water trusts that have created 190 jobs in the local economy, which earn between $684 and $6,198 a year. This is anywhere from at the minimum wage for part time jobs to 9 times the minimum wage for higher-skilled work.
  • Women in DRC’s Tuungane project and resilient VSLAs are using their connections to get refugees paying jobs when they have to flee their homes.
  • Farmers in the West Bank and Gaza’s Tatweer project built local nurseries for vegetable seedlings, seedbanks, and other businesses. The nursery produces 3 million vegetable seedlings a year, and makes $14,000 in profit each season. The businesses have created 134 job opportunities for local communities.
  • Women in Morocco’s VSLAs were 17 times more likely to own their own businesses after the programme. 450 individual women and 116 collectives started new businesses and created jobs for women.

How did they get there?

  • VSLAs: In Haiti’s Kore Lavi project, 38% of fresh food vendors and 50% of staple vendors are using credit from VSLAs to expand their business. VSLA’s were also instrumental in the projects in Morocco, DRC, and Guatemala.
  • Reduce transaction costs: Tatweer is supporting new businesses that are close to farmers, allow families to skip the roadblocks and travel costs, and have quality standards. Farmers are saving $1.5 million in the costs of production.
  • Work for gender equality: 49% more women in IEIDEAS in Egypt say that men and women should be making decisions together, and twice as many say that women can be leaders.
  • Create confidence: 75,000 people in Job Creation in Rwanda took financial literacy and entrepreneurship training. 93% of participants are confident that they can keep their businesses open for at least the next 3 years. One woman told us “the training taught us we can do something ourselves.”
  • Make services financially viable: By charging a small amount for water, the Water Trusts in Zambia’s PROSPECT are able to pay for repairs and expanding services to new customers. From 2009-2013, the water trusts collectively earned $109,415 in profits that they were able to re-invest in services and put into savings for future repairs.

Want to learn more?

Check out the links to project evaluations above.

Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Email: ejanoch@care.org