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Co-funded by the European Union

Creating common understanding of Women’s Economic Empowerment – how the ICR Facility’s training is accelerating our partners’ ambitions

When more women participate in the economy, the whole society benefits. This is because, as indicated in a recent ICReport,  women’s economic empowerment leads to better businesses, better investments, better jobs and better family well-being. The ICR Facility, a project with the aim of improving the business environment in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries but with a focus to promote women economic empowerment, has created a women’s economic empowerment training (BER4WEE) to apply a gender lens to business environment reforms processes such as challenges faced by women as entrepreneurs, investees, employees or leaders in policy Dialogues (PPDs).

Three formats – one for everyone’s needs

The training is delivered in 3 formats.

  1. First, we trained highly experienced experts from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to cascade the training.
  2. Secondly, the trainers – provide tailor-made version of this training to the ICR partners, zooming in on their needs. A good example is the work that ICR Facility did for the Ekiti Development and Investment Promotion Agency (EKDIPA) I Nigeria. The training brought all stakeholders in the ecosystem together top promote more effectively modalities of work.
  3. Third, the training is available as a self-paced, free, online training, which you can access here. It is highly recommended key functions within your organisation take this course, which will create a common understanding of WEE and how to get started.

Equal opportunities for women in the jobs of the future

René Gayle Roper, an attorney and consultant in Kingston, Jamaica, who has campaigned for wage transparency, understands the challenges women face only too well. On the surface it would appear that the Caribbean country is socially progressive, having elected its first female prime minister well over a decade ago. The reality, however, is quite different. A recent study estimated that the gender pay gap is 39%, the worst in the region. Roper – who took part in the BER4WEE course – has been lobbying for wage transparency and recently has switched some of her focus to the tech space and promoting STEM roles for women. 


“The reality is that we need to prepare women for the future and most of the jobs of the future are currently dominated by men,” she says. As part of her work, Roper learned that 90% of software engineers in Jamaica are men. “In that sense men are dictating how we are going to be living our lives in the future and what the future world will look like,” she adds.


The training, the attorney explains, taught her to think more critically about how to support women without resorting to assumptions about the type of work they’re qualified to do, such as only “thinking of women in the care-giving fields, or low-level functions, like admin and secretarial services”. She believes this kind of mindset can inadvertently perpetuate the status quo. “In the training we were talking about ways in which we can be mindful of gender gaps and mindful of how certain issues affect women in particular.”

Encouraging the next generation of leaders

In Kenya, there is a drive to increase the number of women taking up political leadership roles after the introduction of a new constitution in 2010 that promised to deliver devolution. Samuel Mulu Mutisya advised on what is commonly known as the G7 Strategy, a means by which to get more women into government following the election of seven female governors in 2022. As someone who undertakes research, data collection, and monitoring and evaluation, he says that the ICR Facility training programme taught him to apply a gender lens to his work. 


Recently, that work included running women-only focus groups that asked for feedback about increasing the participation of females in leadership spaces. He heard from those who are already influential, but more crucially from women at the grassroots level who face barriers. “We were able to really capture the majority of the issues that women face,” he says, “because the women at the grassroots level were able to talk about cultural barriers and they admitted that they socialise children differently.” Despite outward progress, he learned that girls were still taught their place was in the kitchen, while boys were prepared from an early age to go out into the world and potentially become leaders. 


As a result of this insight, Mutisya helped to develop a mentorship programme for girls. He explains that without the training he might have been more “blind to these issues” and admits that the research would likely have focused only on leaders. He says he is now more proactive, always asking himself the question about how the development of policies, whether in agriculture, health or another sector, would affect women in particular. 


And there is progress: when the president of Kenya went to the United States in May 2024, he invited the seven female governors to take part in the delegation. Mutisya sees this as proof that his work as a researcher has had an effect on the highest levels of government.


Making the business case

When business reforms take into account the specific barriers facing women, it can accelerate gender transformative policies. In Nigeria, for example, the ICR Facility worked with EKDIPA – the Ekiti Development and Investment Promotion Agency – to develop a gender-sensitive database that would produce evidence of where investment is most needed.


Lolade Olutola, Director-General of EKDIPA confirmed “The workshops on “Data Collection and Analysis for Policy Advocacy” and “Women’s Economic Empowerment for Investment Promotion” (…) proved to be particularly beneficial. These training sessions not only equipped EKDIPA staff and stakeholder agencies with the necessary skills and knowledge but also fostered a collaborative environment for brainstorming solutions and action steps.


We are confident that the insights and recommendations gained […] from the ICR Facility will enable EKDIPA to develop targeted investment promotion strategies that showcase the unique opportunities available in Ekiti State and also enhance our capacity to attract and retain investments across various sectors.”

Online course open to all

Often organisations in ACP countries that request the ICR Facility’s help are interested in making the business environment more gender sensitive but don’t know how to get started. This course has an online, self-paced version with five modules that take about an hour each. It would also be useful for policy experts in both public and private sectors who would like to take more proactive steps to accelerate women’s economic empowerment.  Yolanda Gibb, a consultant who has worked with the ICR Facility and its partners, is training others to think about gender sensitivities, having completed the training herself. When she works on a specific business intervention, she uses some of what she’s learned in the modules to inform her work. In Malawi, for example, she investigated harassment and discrimination against women in the workplace. The training had resources that she applied to that specific project. “It’s a good reference – I then combine it with some evidence I already have, and then I’ll adapt and focus it,” she explains. Back in Jamaica, Roper says the training has enabled her to speak more fluently and confidently about women’s economic empowerment. “Having this resource at my fingertips and being able to pull on case studies has been extremely useful.” 

According to an ICR Facility report, advancing gender equality can potentially unlock $13tr in global gross domestic product by 2030. So, it’s not just about doing what is seen to be the “right thing”, it’s a winning financial strategy . 



Find out more about the ICR Facility’s Business Environment Reform for Women’s Economic Empowerment (BER4WEE) course with this video and register here

This publication is part of an intervention supported by the Investment Climate Reform (ICR) Facility. The ICR Facility is co-funded by the European Union (EU), the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the British Council. The ICR Facility is implemented by GIZ, the British Council, Expertise France, and SNV. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the donors or the implementing partners.

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