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Social enterprises drive fight for gender equality

Social enterprises from across the world have outlined plans to help tackle gender inequality on the second day of the Social Enterprise World Forum.

Social enterprises are companies that generate income, but use their work and profits to  help local communities, such as by tackling prejudice, providing health services and employment.

In the UK, period poverty and discrimination at work has been front of centre of the work of a successful social enterprise, Hey Girls.

At the Social Enterprise World Forum, The Noble Cup has set out a similar plan to tackle the same issues in a developing country.

Helina Dawit from Noble Cup explains:

Menstruation is a still an issue for many girls and women in Ethiopia. Lots of girls miss school once a month because they cannot afford or cannot access menstration products. In the workplace, women face discrimination for similar reasons.

Noble Cup has introduced an eco-friendly, medical grade silicone cup that can be removed, emptied, rinsed and re-inserted by women during their period. It can be worn for up to 12 hours and re-used for up to five years.

The Cup is sold in chemists and in urban areas for full price and with profits used to give cups away to those in rural areas and to poorer women. People can also donate cups to those who need them online.

While tackling health barriers to equality, women in Africa are also breaking down barriers in the traditional work places.

In Kenya, there is a severe skills gap in the construction industry, yet millions of women earning under $3 a day. BuildHer is a social enterprise which has taken an apprenticeship model to solving both problems.

The social enterprise provides traditional construction skills training to women, alongside more personal advice to help in personal situations as well as encourage saving while earning and learning.

BuildHer aims to have 1,500 to 1,800 women graduate every year from a single college in Nairobi. Many of the women, recruited through community organisations, are from poor backgrounds or are single mothers.

James Mitchell, one of the co-founders of BuildHer, told the Social Enterprise World Forum in Addis Ababa:

We are trying to increase the income of the women by up to 5 fold and having a positive impact on their families too. As well as this, we are building future female leaders and working to shift attitudes among the men toward having women on construction sites.

The problems of a male dominated construction industry are not unique to Kenya and we would like to see this change the world over.

But it’s not just construction which has a gender balance problem.

Tiwale is a social enterprise that has moved from supporting women into education and business to taking on the world of music.

Just 21.7% of chart-topping artists and 2% music producers are women and in partnership with DJ collective, Pussy Party, Tiwale are staging DJ and production workshops. This will lead to a campaign to encourage local festivals to have gender balanced line-ups to help boost their skills and profile.

The Rooftop is reporting from the Social Enterprise World Forum thanks to support from the British Council.

Image: Social Enterprise World Forum

About the author

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise communications.