Women’s Empowerment & Social Enterprise

We assist local ministries in establishing and carrying out economic development programs, including vocational training and support for microenterprises.

Our women’s empowerment program, modeled on the Graduation Approach developed by Bangladesh-based international nonprofit BRAC, provides one-time investments to equip extremely poor women and their families with the skills, productive assets, and social support necessary to increase their incomes and escape poverty. The responsibility is always in the hands of each woman. They know their needs and talents best, and they know what is best for their families. At times that knowledge comes through some trial and error, and they have the flexibility to change their chosen vocation or income-generating activity if desired.

The women selected to receive support are all ultra-poor, meaning they live on less than half of the international poverty line of $2.15 per day. In each country or region where we support women’s empowerment projects, a local project coordinator helps the women as issues arise, so they never have to walk alone. The total cost of our women’s empowerment projects is typically $700 per woman or less.

Regardless of what vocation a woman chooses – sewing, livestock raising, weaving, cooking, etc. – we pair the business item and training with additional funds to help with whatever her most urgent needs are. For example, covering her children’s school fees for several months, helping with medical bills, assisting with rent for part of the year, etc. We provide these additional funds because we, and other organizations and experts, have learned that without the additional help these projects are much more likely to fall flat. As soon as a family emergency happens, or school fees come due, or a woman is pregnant, etc., their animal(s), cooking supplies, weaving loom, etc. will often be sold for desperately needed cash if they haven’t already begun to earn a profit from their work. By providing for these additional needs, the women can avoid liquidating their business assets. It also means that the first profits from selling their products can more quickly be saved and/or reinvested, instead of all going to basic necessities like food or medical treatment.

To date, we have made 79 grants to women-led ultra-poor households across 10 regions of three countries: Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar. For those grants where enough time has elapsed to reliably estimate the program’s impact, at least 82% of the women have escaped extreme poverty. We are in the process of expanding to support pastors and missionaries with similar grants aimed at facilitating economic self-sufficiency; so far, we have piloted 10 such grants in three countries.

We have also supported a range of additional women’s empowerment and social enterprise projects, proposed and led by our Asian partners. Examples include vocational training schools and programs that impart marketable skills to whole cohorts of participants, churches being trained by Hope International to run community savings groups, and more.

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