There is no doubt that small and growing businesses (SGBs) are catalysts for many economies. Across emerging and established economies alike, they make up the majority of employment generation, and contribute towards innovation and growth in new sectors – making them a key tool in achieving various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – including SDG #5: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

For one, women-led SGBs tend to employ more women, their growth thus achieving spill-over effects. Additionally, SGBs, particularly social enterprises, that are led by women and men have the potential to promote gender equality in their workforce, value chains and markets in order to achieve better business and social outcomes. However, gaps in funding, profitability, company size and sectors, among many others, contribute to limiting the potential for growth and development of women-led SGBs.

Realizing these challenges, and identifying this gap as a key priority, ANDE and Value for Women are collaborating to develop and share best practices for gender-smart support interventions in the SGB ecosystem. With generous support from the Walmart Foundation, ANDE and Value for Women have partnered in Central America, Mexico, and South Africa on a Partnership for Sustainable and Inclusive Small and Growing Businesses. The partnership has the following objectives:

  • To support entrepreneurial intermediaries and investors with technical assistance (TA), to improve their service for women-led and gender-inclusive businesses;
  • To support SGBs (both women-led and gender-inclusive) in the adoption of gender strategies, action plans and tools to impact business and social outcomes; and
  • To develop and share best practices and methodologies on applying a gender lens to entrepreneurial support, and to share these lessons throughout the ecosystem.

We aim to ensure that the support available to entrepreneurs is responsive to the needs of rural SGBs within the food system and adjacent sectors in Central America and Mexico and in the sustainability sector in South Africa.

This work builds on a previous collaboration between ANDE and Value for Women under ANDE’s Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund (AWEF), under which similar Technical Assistance (TA) was provided to intermediaries in South-East Asia.

Congratulations to the 7 recipients of Technical Assistance in Central America, Mexico, and South Africa!

  • Goodwell Investments
  • Oribi Village
  • African Management Institute
  • Pomona
  • Alterna
  • Fundasistemas
  • Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya

 We have the pleasure of working with the following organizations, each making a unique contribution to the SGB ecosystems in their respective regions. These organizations will receive tailored gender advisory services, including:

  • A holistic organizational gender diagnostic;
  • A collaborative gender action plan co-design process;
  • The design of tailored strategies, tools, templates and training for their cohorts and internal staff – as needed; and
  • Dedicated troubleshooting services by Value for Women staff.

These organizations have the following to say about their participation in this project:

Mercy Zulu-Hume, Investment Associate and ESG Officer at Goodwell Investments in South Africa: “As an impact investor, we apply ESG metrics to all our decisions with the intention to create a portfolio representative of global diversity. Through our venture with Value for Women, we aim to sharpen our gender lens, support our portfolio companies in applying a gender lens to their activities and ensure our portfolio is gender-smart: Equally targeting women as customers, women as employees, and women in the value chain.”

Louis Prévost, Head of Incubation at Oribi Village in South Africa: “As an organisation committed to development and inclusive economies, it has come quite natural for us to think about gender inclusion in our programmes. Now we want to build an understanding of how to actualise this gender lens across all activities that we do, and to formalise our processes so that we ensure sustainability of this strategy.”

Lebo Phasha, General Manager at African Management Institutein South Africa: “We are committed to enabling ambitious business owners to take their success to the next level, and want to make sure that our women participants are supported to the best of our abilities. Gender intentionality is already important to us. We want to improve our performance in this area, and ensure that this goal is evident in all our activities. An important part of being intentional and keeping these considerations front of mind is making clever use of our impact data to support the decisions and actions that advance gender inclusion.”

Jessica Rochman, Finance and Administrative Director at Fundasistemasin Guatemala: “Making progress on gender issues, which are extremely complex, is good for the world, is good for the economy, and is good for improving the standard of living of countries. It is not just about giving the same opportunity to apply for a job, it is much more complex…It is ideal that within our organisation we do things with more intentionality, which will be good for the organisation, our programmes and the country in general.”

Multiple gender lenses

The starting point for these TA projects is the Value for Women gender-lens investing framework, which can be applied to investors and other intermediaries alike. Specifically, we take a view of gender inclusion that goes beyond providing more capital to women-owned or women-led businesses, and that also looks at the extent to which businesses’ activities are gender-inclusive. Applying a gender lens to the businesses of SGBs and intermediaries can thus benefit:

  • Women as business owners
  • Women as business leaders
  • Women as employees
  • Women as customers
  • Women as suppliers or distributors

For our TA with these intermediaries, which will last 6 months, there are multiple entry points for becoming more gender-inclusive. Broadly, an organization should consider who they provide financial and/or non-financial support to, how they provide that support, and their internal diversity, to ensure they walk the talk.

What makes these projects so exciting is the fact that a focus can be directed at each activity that an organization undertakes, tailored to their strategic priorities and their progress to date. For example, some of our work might revolve around creating or updating robust due diligence tools, to ensure an organization’s innate gender lens is consistently applied. On the other hand, what might be required is training of investee companies’ board members, to ensure they have the tools and knowledge required to advocate for a gender lens across an investor’s portfolio.

Organizations interested in understanding more are encouraged to read Value for Women’s publication How to Invest with a Gender Lens: A Guide for Investors in Emerging Markets.

Over the course of the next year, as we implement this TA and document the learnings, we will share more insights through publications, infographics, and (virtual) community events. We look forward to taking you on this journey with us!