The Girl Effect – Some Organizations to Watch

> Posted by Danielle Donza
I recently attended a presentation in Boston where Dana Dakin, the founder and president of Womens Trust, a microfinance program serving women in Ghana, was asked about the impact of her program. Dakin replied that “wife beating is down,” repeating the words of the response of Victoria, a leader in the community of Pokuase, a Ghanaian town of approximately 20,000 people. The Executive Director of Womens Trust Ghana, Wilma Longdon, hypothesized that this result is  due not only to that fact that their microloans are empowering women in Pokuase, but also to the way that these microloans take the pressure off men to be the sole providers for their families. Dakin admitted it is almost impossible to prove causality between the program and this outcome.
Womens Trust is a unique  microfinance institution that channels all of its profits from microlending into innovative education and healthcare programming for women and their families. Its three-pronged approach to development and empowerment provides microlending, education, and healthcare services to women and girls in Pokuase. They hope this approach will be sustainable, scalable, and replicated, and so do I!
Flash forward a day and I’m meeting with another incredible woman. Jennifer John works with Criterion Ventures on its Women Effects Investments (WEI) initiative, which looks to build an ecosystem around investing in women and girls. John and her colleagues are identifying and creating new female-friendly investment opportunities and mobilizing more female investors to place their assets in vehicles that expand the seat at the table for women in social investing. WEI is looking to shape the social capital markets with a “Gender Lens” which looks at women’s access to capital, workplace equity, and how well financial products and services are tailored to the needs of women. The Gender Lens is meant to maximize the impact of investments on women and girls because WEI believes that when women are economic agents and leaders, social change accelerates and returns multiply.
If you have not already, I definitely encourage you to watch the “Girl Effect” video, which demonstrates the situation faced by many women in developing countries and shows the tremendous opportunity we have to create social change by helping girls at a young age.
Even better is  a worthy read, Inez Murray’s blog for CGAP, “Do We Need Pink Checkbooks?” Inez, Executive Vice President at Women’s World Banking, discusses how the needs of female MFI clients differ from their male counterparts.
It is wonderful to learn about so many efforts focused specifically on women. Women’s empowerment is one of the reasons I was attracted to microfinance in the first place. After all, women do hold up Half the Sky!