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Up close: Deploying technologies that accelerate women’s economic advancement

Several leading organizations and research projects have identified improved access to technology as a key driver in promoting women’s economic empowerment.

Through our women’s economic opportunity initiative, we bring simple life-changing technologies to women entrepreneurs and farmers. Our efforts have included developing a global technology challenge to help find and nurture the most promising innovations, and supporting efforts to enable closer collaboration among innovators, development experts and investors on ways to bring them to market more efficiently. Examples of technology programs we support and their direct impacts on women include:

KickStart

We partner with KickStart International to integrate manually powered irrigation pumps into our existing women’s farmer programs in Angola and Chad, helping women access water more easily, saving the time, expense and labor required to transport it. In the process, women farmers are able to scale up production from their commercial vegetable gardens. Since 2012, KickStart has delivered nearly 2,000 pumps to farmers in Chad and Angola and conducted on-the-ground training to ensure proper operation.

Alsabour Djemil, a farmer in Chad, started using the pump through the program in February 2013. Since then, she has increased her income fivefold and doubled the size of her farm. With the extra income, Alsabour is paying for her children’s education, purchased a piece of land to build a house, bought basic supplies, and spent less time farming, while still realizing a greater production yield. She says she is now empowered to contribute to family decision-making and there is more equity in her relationship with her husband.

Solar Sister

Solar Sister was formed to empower women in rural Uganda by providing modern energy access. Using a neighbor-to-neighbor distribution system, the program helps women entrepreneurs deliver solar and clean-cooking technology solutions to their communities. In 2013, Solar Sister launched operations in Nigeria, with 45 entrepreneurs participating in three regions. In the pilot program, they sold more than 500 solar lights and clean cookstoves – devices aimed at improving air quality and sustaining community health. As of year-end 2014, 184 Nigerian women have joined the organization, selling nearly 2,500 products across 14 states.

Solar Sister participant from Nigeria
Photo — Solar Sister participant in Nigeria.

Iniobong Okon, a retired nurse who opened a maternity clinic, first heard of Solar Sister through her patient, Blessing, a Solar Sister team member. Iniobong bought a cookstove and solar lights, which she used in her clinic to provide health services after dark and when there was no electricity. Iniobong has also shared the benefits of solar technologies with shopkeepers in her community who were experiencing business difficulties due to interruptions in the national power grid. Iniobong uses the extra income from her Solar Sister activities to continue providing care for the women in her community and delivering children in bright rooms with no open flames or fumes.

For more information, review our women’s economic opportunity initiative and the programs we support.

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