08 Mar How investing in young women and gender equality changes lives

Closing the gender gap in the workforce could add up to $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025, according to a report conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute.

What’s greater is the impact it will have on the daily lives of young women. Young people all over the world aspire for decent work and financial security. Yet, their potential remains largely untapped due to lack of opportunities, and women are disproportionately more likely than men to be left behind[1]. This prevents them from pursuing their full potential and leading lives in which they thrive and can contribute to economic growth, keeping them and their families in a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

That’s why the EQWIP HUBs project, powered by Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International, is addressing these barriers directly, working with global partners and Canadian volunteers to offer a unique, holistic and responsive livelihood training program. By providing opportunities for education, skills training and business start-up support, EQWIP HUBs also seeks to increase the capacity of in-country organizations to provide youth programming that integrates the importance of gender equality and environmental sustainability principles. Inspired by the Canadian government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, and funded in part by Global Affairs Canada, one of the EQWIP HUBs project goals is ensuring at least 50% program participation from young women.

Recognizing that women face unique barriers to accessing skills development opportunities, including traditional household gender roles and family care responsibilities, or lacking the financial means to travel to education facilities, the project proactively reaches out to young women to ensure they equally benefit from EQWIP HUBs programs. The result is responsive programming, such as creating safe spaces for women through girls and women-only clubs that focus on empowerment and confidence building, as well as enlisting female entrepreneurs to act as mentors, and providing onsite day care.

And it’s working! Women make up 50% of the entrepreneurial training participants, and run 52% of the businesses that received seed grants through EQWIP HUBs’ Youth Innovation Fund.

Additionally, 96% of the women owned and operated businesses that launched with Youth Innovation Fund support in year one and two of the project are still operating. 43% of all businesses funded through the Youth Innovation Fund have a direct gender equality component and the knowledge and capability of our local partners to provide gender-equative training and programming has increased from 47% to 62% over two years.

The EQWIP HUBs project is a great example of what we can achieve working in partnership to create sustainable change. Through innovative and collaborative approaches, together we can reach EQWIP HUBs’ goal of helping 100,000 youth change their lives by 2020. Find out how young Canadians can get involved by volunteering their time and skills.

A case study

Meet Dene Inca Ventura, an EQWIP HUBs entrepreneurial program graduate and Youth Innovation Fund seed grant recipient.

Before joining the EQWIP HUBs project, Dene was struggling to earn a living and to support her family. Thanks to the training, business support and mentorship provided by EQWIP HUBs, she recognized a need for laundry services in her community and opened Eco Lavandería Inca in the Santa Rosa District of Lima.

While Dene’s laundromat is filling a service gap in her community, she was also trained through the project to be aware of the potential environmental harm of her service. She made it a point to only use eco-friendly detergents, conserve water usage and even reuses the laundry water to water her garden. She also requests clients to bring their laundry in reusable bags rather than providing single-use plastic bags.

Within a year of establishing her business, Dene has seen revenues steadily increase and she now has regular weekly clients. Thanks to her disciplined business approach, this number continues to grow, and she is working on expanding her clientele to include corporate businesses. But her ambitions do not stop there. Next year, Dene plans to open a second location in a more populated and commercial area of Lima.

Arriving at this point of success has not been easy for Dene: funding was a serious concern when deciding to launch her business. After completing EQWIP HUBs entrepreneurial training, she did not have any income and several of her family members required her support. She applied for and received seed grant funding support from EQWIP HUBs’ Youth Innovation Fund. Thanks to the EQWIP HUBs employment and entrepreneurial training, Dene overcame some of her personal fears and built up her confidence, allowing her to open and operate a successful business.

This is just one of many examples of how providing livelihood opportunities and support to young women has a lasting positive impact on their lives and that of their families and communities. Women’s economic empowerment is critical to achieving the universal Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

As global citizens we are called to act to end poverty, achieve gender equality, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and security. Read more of the amazing success stories of the EQWIP HUBs project and Apply to volunteer and contribute to the success of the EQWIP HUBs project to help change the lives of 100,000 youth by 2020.

[1] http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures