Insights from the learning event “Economic empowerment for rural women and access to markets in Central America“

Written by: Beatrice Gerli

Tangible impacts:  labour-saving technologies freed up women’s time
 “And then, we requested to purchase six washing machines. This was fundamental for us and the other members of my group to free up time and engage in economic opportunities. Time is everything to us”, said Oralia Ruano Lima with a smile. Oralia is one of the three beneficiaries of the UnWomen- IFAD programme “Broadening women’s economic opportunities (BEO) for Rural Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America Region Programme” that came to IFAD today to share their experiences. It was the first time she travelled abroad and together with two other young women, shared with IFAD staff how this programme has helped her.

Results of two years initiative with UN Women in Latin America
BEO is an initiative funded by IFAD through regional grant for an amount of USD 2,500,000, and a counterpart granted by UN Women of USD 320 000; implemented by UN Women. Since 2013 the organizations have worked to contribute to the economic empowerment of rural women entrepreneurs in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua. The programme is now coming to a closure and the event organized here in Rome is aimed at drawing key lessons learned and implication for future gender work in the region, including the cooperation between Un women and IFAD.

·         The programme has developed a new comprehensive strategy for empowering women. Efforts to support women’s economic empowerment were complemented by interventions aimed at strengthening women’s leadership and participation in decision making processes. The underlying principle is that women’s engagement in economic activities goes hand in hand with self-esteem and their recognition as key actors of economic development, both in their communities and at national level.
·         Promotion of labour saving technologies. The programme promoted rural women entrepreneurship, without overburdening them, designing interventions to strike a balance between productive and reproductive activities of women – and having a washing machine did help in that.
·         women organizations and the creation of women networks was supported to enable them to overcome informality of their business, access information and markets, and eliminate their dependency on social transfers for them or other members of their families.

Scaling up and learning for IFAD operations

What’s next? These strategies of women’s economic empowerment should reach out the scope of the programme. Sharing the tools and the methodologies that were developed (labour allocation tools, comprehensive business plans, peer-to-peer learning routes) can benefit other IFAD operations in the region. And beyond, IFAD and UNwomen should engage with governments to support better policy design and implementation that can favour women’s economic empowerment. Cooperation with Ciudad Mujer en El Salvador is a good example. This government initiative supports the coordination of all institutions supporting women, as well as the delivery of related services in a coherent way: health, leadership and economic empowerment.