Businesses are leaving money on the table by ignoring the economic potential of women and youth.
With the right tools and support, youth and women can positively contribute to their country’s economy. Yet, all too often, market actors are unable or unwilling to create space for youth and women to engage.
Strengthening youth and women’s economic empowerment is an important aspect of expanding income-generation opportunities that promote inclusive economic growth. However, to achieve change at the scale required by the global unemployment crisis, we must approach the problem from more than one direction.
In addition to ensuring individuals have a space within the economic ecosystem, we can also adapt the ecosystem itself to be more inclusive for all. Economic empowerment is not only about ensuring marginalized people are able to secure employment and earn an income. It must also be about the quality of work that they engage in and their resulting quality of life.
at a Glance in 2016/2017
$0Madditional fresh produce has reached high-value markets in the Caribbean over the past five years
0international volunteers contributed to more inclusive economies
0people participated in volunteer-led trainings in 14 countries
Everyone has something to gain from more inclusive economic growth.
Yet convincing everyone to get involved is not always an easy task. Governments, producers, businesses, and civil society organizations must be committed to working alongside youth and women - and alongside each other.
One of our goals in fostering inclusive economies is to bring everyone to the table. We start by uncovering the motivations and incentives of the different actors. What would drive each one of them to engage, make decisions, and take action? Answering these questions helps us to identify where different goals align, creating a launching pad for greater inclusion and change.
Once an alignment has been identified, we work with our diverse partners to develop market innovations that can transform these opportunities into win-win solutions. Sometimes these innovations are led by large businesses, leveraging their capacity to build evidence for more inclusive practice across an entire sector. Other innovations are targeted toward individuals and small enterprises, where it is possible to dig deeper at the root of the problem. These big innovations ultimately dismantle one barrier for many, while the smaller interventions can dismantle many barriers for a few.
WUSC is dismantling barriers for more inclusive economies in 19 countries around the world.
In the Caribbean, agriculture holds a significant share of economic activities. Though the demand for local produce in the region is high, many farmers struggle to enter these high-value markets, particularly youth and women. In 2016/2017, we continued our work in Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, and St. Lucia to better connect marginalized farmers and producers to buyers in the region.
By facilitating linkages between businesses and farmers, we have improved farmers’ access to credit. This credit can help them obtain higher quality seeds to cultivate a higher quality product. Businesses benefit by improving their access to quality local produce that meets customer demand, while farmers benefit from an increased income.
There are many other factors that contribute to improved quality of produced, beyond the seed selection. These include improved farming practices and post-harvest handling. To further support farmers and producers in the region, we have also collaborated with buyers to clarify and simplify their quality standards. To date, nine quality standards have been created and disseminated to farmers. Once established, we partner with government actors to provide marginalized farmers with training opportunities that can help them better meet these new standards.
In 2016/2017, we also continued our work fostering more inclusive economies through international volunteer cooperation. International volunteers are uniquely placed to advance inclusive economic attitudes and practices; their diverse experiences and perspectives can contribute to the development of new market innovations. Spread out across 14 countries around the world, our volunteers also provide a global network through which partners can share resources on cross-cutting issues for economic growth, such as gender equality and environmental sustainability.
Through the Uniterra program, jointly delivered with CECI, our international volunteers worked alongside 400 partners and market actors. The majority of our volunteers - 60% - are mid- to late-career professionals with more than 6 years of experience. They come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including business development, human resources, marketing, women’s rights, agriculture, and computer science. Representing twenty unique economic sectors, including agriculture, tourism, textiles, and ICTs, our partners mobilized their volunteers to develop market innovations that better extend economic benefits to youth and women.
The interventions our volunteers have supported this past year represent their diverse backgrounds. They include training executives and managers in the Sri Lankan textile sector on the importance of gender equality and inclusion in the workplace; linking Canadian businesses with ethical tea, coffee, cacao, and quinoa producers across the global South; and developing radio programming to tackle gender biases in the Ghanaian construction sector, in partnership with Farm Radio International.
International volunteers also continue their global development efforts upon their return to Canada. In 2016/2017, our volunteers engaged in a national campaign to share their experiences in developing countries with friends and families. This past year, the campaign reached over 5.5 million people, with a focus on inspiring Canadians to take action toward ethical consumption that can empower marginalized producers around the world.