Social Enterprise’s Role in Supporting Women’s Empowerment

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With gender inequality continuing to be a major issue, meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, which is to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,’ still looks distant. In order to tackle India’s vast inequality issue, we must increase resources for existing initiatives, as well as analyze the potential of fresh ones.

As we already know, the signs that social enterprise can make a meaningful change are promising, owing to its power to disrupt the dichotomy between ‘the empowerer’ and ‘the empowered’. If traditional interventions focus on women as beneficiaries, social enterprise elevates women to be customers, employees or business owners. Additionally, the Central Statistical Office’s National Sample Survey of 2011-2012 claims that 59.30% of rural women are self-employed, exceeding the male ratio of 54.50%; evidencing that rural women are already interested in entrepreneurship.

A dilemma faced by many in the field is how to balance priorities when it comes to excelling in a competitive business market, whilst simultaneously doing justice to the social imperative. For example, social impact investors may be willing to accept fewer financial dividends for the promise that their investment will translate into a social good. But their benchmarks for the undertaking may also be unrealistically high, given the complexity of the inequities at play.

The real imperative for NGOs is to enhance their own capacity by establishing management and administrative systems, and by developing mechanisms for collaborating with other organizations. Capacity building programs have to impact NGO decision makers (through holistic leadership development), as well as help management staff to acquire organizational, management and behavioral skills. These programs combine the NGO staff members’ passion for the cause with practical techniques, optimizing their ability to affect positive change.

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India Futures (an initiative of Walchand PeopleFirst), has years of experience in capacity building for NGOs and women empowerment; among other areas relevant to the UN SDGs. For example, India Futures was appointed as the HRD consultant to facilitate the development of over 200 women employees during a government-funded empowerment program. Additionally, we delivered time-spaced training programs in the native vernacular to young women, for an employability project based in Kolkata. Our experience working with corporates and social sector organizations puts us in the exceptional position of being able to provide real-world solutions that also meet social objectives.

While social enterprise is playing an increasing role in women’s empowerment through its impact on beneficiaries, entrepreneurs, employees and societal norms, there is without a doubt, vast potential for it to achieve even more.

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