Agora Partnerships Makes the Call to ‘Accelerate Women Now’ For Latin America’s Entrepreneurs
Posted on November 06, 2013, by Marina Kaneko, Half the Sky Movement
What's one of the best ways to alleviate poverty? Invest in women. On the global scale, women make up 70 percent of all impoverished individuals. Within the Latin American population, only 43 percent of women are employed. Studies show that women invest directly back into their communities and families at remarkably high rates, spending more of their earned income on things like food, education, and healthcare than their male counterparts.
One organization invested in empowering the next wave of female entrepreneurs in Latin America is Agora Partnerships, a non-profit that aims to scale the growth and success of early-stage businesses with positive social, economic or environmental impact in their home countries. Agora's special initiative, Accelerate Women Now (AWN), raised over $100,000 following its October 2012 launch to sponsor operations costs and scholarships to help female entrepreneurs afford to take part in Agora's Impact Accelerator program. Entrepreneurs hailing from countries including Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia and Venezuela participate in the six-month program, utilizing Agora's business consulting services, investor matchmaking, and deal closing services to better realize the impact of their businesses.
Members of the Impact Accelerator's Class of 2013
The program has seen remarkable growth, this year sponsoring 27 companies from 13 different countries, representing over $7 million in sales and 475 plus employees. Over 30 percent of the applicant pool consisted of women entrepreneurs. The growing success of the companies run by women graduates of the program is a testament to the importance of integrating women into the business economy.
Jesse Grainger, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Agora Partnerships was inspired by the Half the Sky Movement while taking on the task of designing a multimedia approach to promoting AWN and the work Agora Partnerships is doing in the world of impact investing. Just this year, Agora hosted Impact Investing in Action in Washington, D.C., a three-day conference of panels, workshops and deal rooms to connect Latin American social entrepreneurs with companies and investors looking to disrupt change through partnerships in the business world. The eponymous short film produced for the 2012 Impact Investing in Action conference tells the compelling story of several Impact Accelerator participants.
A passion for social enterprise and women's empowerment is no new phenomenon among the Agora Partnerships team. After reading Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Agora's COO Becky Bailey ended up quitting her finance job, going to Wharton Business School, and started working with Agora because the book impacted her so deeply. And it's apparent that the work of Agora's entrepreneurs has had an extensive and lasting impact on many women who have now found employment opportunities.
Women of Kiej de Los Bosques in Guatemala, a venture founded by Agora scholar and entrepreneur Maria Pacheco
On one occasion, Jesse Grainger spoke to Josefina, an artisan weaver who works for Maria Pacheco, one of the most successful graduates of the accelerator and the founder of Kiej de los Bosques. When asked what had changed in her life since finding this employment opportunity, she responded, “My husband isn’t angry anymore.” Before, when Josefina did not have financial independence, she also lacked the power to retaliate or leave her husband, a marker of the economic imbalance in her marriage. "But now that she has money and is making financial decisions around the house, she said that not only is he nice now, but he also does all the cleaning in the house," Jesse said.
"We can tell someone until we're blue in the face, 'This woman is equal to a man,'" says Jesse, "but when that woman is given the opportunity to really prove that she's equal through some type of business or venture, societies begin to change."
To learn more about Accelerate Women Now and the Agora Women's Scholarship Fund, visit the AWN website or connect with Agora Partnerships' Twitter and Facebook page.
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