Better Together: Working to Strengthen the Women’s Economic Empowerment Movement

January 22, 2015

As development practitioners, how often have you hit an obstacle and thought, “I wonder if there is a better way to approach this?” You then turned to the Internet for help only to be buried in information, with varying degrees of relevance. Some of you might have tapped into a specific topical community or group of peers and found more useful answers. Communities of practice (or learning communities) are an important tool to bring together groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

Today, as donors, development practitioners, policy makers, and local communities are coming together to pool resources and efforts to promote inclusive economic development, there is growing recognition that we need to embed gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in all programs and projects especially if we wish to make sustainable change. SEEP members working on these complex issues are generating a significant amount of knowledge and wisdom. Linking these experienced champions of change to each other through learning communities can foster innovation, create opportunities for meaningful collaboration, and scale impact.

In mid-2014, while collaborating with the Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) team on other topics from the learning agenda of promoting inclusive market systems, we decided to explore the level of interest in a SEEP working group on the topic of women’s economic empowerment and the response was overwhelming—over 150 responses. At the 2014 SEEP Annual Conference, we launched SEEP’s newest working group on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE), facilitated by Erin Markel from MarketShare Associates, and with support from the LEO project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Attended by over 40 practitioners, the discussions at this first meeting validated the need for such a collaborative platform.  

The overall goal of the SEEP Women’s Economic Empowerment Working Group is to improve the ability of market systems and other inclusive economic development practitioners to facilitate inclusive, empowering and sustainable services to women across the globe. The group aims to achieve this by bringing together inclusive economic development practitioners committed to sharing and documenting good practices, tools, and resources to bridge knowledge gaps and strengthen the impact of our women’s economic empowerment initiatives. The group has focused on three critical priorities for 2015:

  • CONNECT. Build working group membership and connect with each other.
  • SHARE. Share and review women's economic empowerment tools and resources.
  • THRIVE. Learn and expand our knowledge.

To support these priorities, we are excited to announce a learning series, “From Theory to Practice: Women’s Economic Empowerment in Inclusive Market Systems Development” in partnership with United Nations' “Knowledge Gateway for Women's Economic Empowerment.” The series starts with a webinar on January 29, 2015 at 9:30 AM EST examining the implications for women’s economic empowerment in inclusive market development based on a paper released by the USAID LEO project. Following the webinar, the discussion will continue on, providing an opportunity for deeper examination of questions, issues, and challenges. 

Participation and active collaboration are key to the success of any learning community. Over the last three decades, SEEP working groups have supported the development of practical tools, defined industry best practice, and created standards on several key themes within economic development. We hope that the WEE Working Group will achieve similar results. Several SEEP members have already signed up to participate as member champions and contributors, but we are always looking to grow the community. Now you can also be a part of the women’s economic empowerment movement and learn more about the activities of the SEEP WEE Working Group. We hope you will join us on this journey to be better together!