Joining forces for an equal world
In our societies, women* and young girls* face systemic inequality of opportunities, unequal access to power and decision-making, and are more exposed to gender-based violence. Gender inequality stems from patriarchal and harmful narratives about gender roles, among other factors. Shaping minds as early as childhood, these narratives have become entrenched in society, creating a lens with which to view—or more aptly put, limit—the role of women* and girls*.
Many organizations have worked to create fair playing systems for women* and girls* but even these models have their limits: any single organization will struggle to counteract complex and deeply ingrained problems like gender inequality. To make lasting progress against this intractable issue, society needs to foster and cultivate changes that are both systemic and adopted by a collective.
Collaborative changemaking (i.e., a collaboration between individuals and organizations who are committed to bringing about positive social change and shifting a system together) is a key enabling process to tackle root causes of gender inequality and advance the path of a gender-equal world.
No single initiative can deliver systemic solutions alone, this needs to be done collectively. We need a movement of social change leaders that connect their strengths and bundle their impact.
In the COVID-19 context, Ashoka facilitated collaboration across social entrepreneurs’ organizations. Specifically, we interviewed and convened social entrepreneurs to allow them to exchange ideas and to better understand the steps society needs to take to advance gender equity and thus enable gender equality.
Phase 1: Understanding the field's needs through social entrepreneurs' work and learning from one another (January- June 2022)
We mapped Ashoka Fellows working on gender in Europe and other key stakeholders from the ecosystem (policy-makers, NGOs, media). We conducted 30 interviews to identify recurring challenges and key learnings/solutions for gender equality. We engaged 11 Europe-based social entrepreneurs in five collective sessions and one in-person meeting in Warsaw, Poland, to share our systemic approaches to gender equality and to develop a collective vision.
Phase 2: Preparing and igniting a collective vision and action plan (September 2022- June 2023)
Together with the 11 Europe-based social entrepreneurs, we released a knowledge report built from our collective analysis and highlighting 5 key recommendations changemakers can take to advance gender equity and thus enable gender equality.
We also wrote a Manifesto for a new Gender Narrative revealing the new needed narratives for women* and girls* to be recognized as half of humanity and thus to acknowledge gender equality as the ultimate goal for a peaceful, fair and healthy world, where everybody is provided with the same rights, opportunities, and resources in all areas of their lives. The Manifesto is built from case studies and data of each social entrepreneur part of this collective work. We presented it for the first time at the Ashoka Changemaker Summit in Brussels in 2022.
Further actions and projects to bring this Manifesto to life are currently being designed and going to be launched in 2023.
How social entrepreneurs tackle gender inequality following COVID-19. Insights from Ashoka’s collective impact initiative.
Read and download here the full knowledge report built from social entrepreneurs' analysis and key recommendations that changemakers can take to advance gender equity and thus enable gender equality.
- Help society understand the roots of gender inequality
- Dismantle patriarchal narratives
- Use an intersectional lens to address gender inequality
- Frame gender inequality as a cross-cutting issue
- Collaborate across sectors to advance gender equality
Manifesto to Change the Gender Narrative!
This manifesto claims that women constitute half of humanity and recognizes Gender Equality as the ultimate goal for a peaceful, fair, and healthy world, where everybody is provided with the same rights, opportunities, and resources in all areas of their lives. Gender Equality holds the notion of justice and recognizes specificities, differences, and privileges to bridge the gaps, to eliminate gender bias and discrimination against women and gender-diverse people.
A new narrative is needed to challenge the underlying systems of power that sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, and so many social categorization schemes are each and all designed to sustain. Only gender equality and feminist values can achieve systemic change.
Gender Equal World Podcasts Series
A new narrative is needed to challenge the underlying systems of power that sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, and so many social categorization schemes are each and all designed to sustain.
We invite you today to listen to the first of three episodes of our podcast mini-series about equal gender dignity and join our efforts to change the narrative around gender.
Meet the Collective
Through her organization, Autonomia Foundation, Ashoka Fellow, Agata Teutsch, is building a network of women* to mainstream empowerment, GBV primary prevention, and anti-discrimination guidelines and practices across Poland and Central-Eastern Europe. This work rejects the notion that girls* and women* are victims, as opposed to change agents.
With an intersectional lens, Agata together with national and international partners has created operational and training modules about girl*’s and women*’s empowerment, gender-based violence prevention resources, and self-defense courses for women* with disabilities, migrants, and refugees. Agata invites participation from community members, families, educational institutions, and more.
Like many Ashoka Fellows, Agata saw the opportunity the pandemic presented to reach more women* with disabilities. Indeed, she modified her content so it could be delivered via digital platforms.
* does not refer to biological categories but to people with experience of socialization into these roles and so identifying themselves as women or girls.
Ana Bella Estevez
Ashoka Fellow, Ana Bella Estévez, founded the Ana Bella Foundation to address gender-based violence (GBV). Her work on the empowerment of victims of GBV leads to exercising their agency to remove themselves from the systems that perpetuate these horrific acts. Being a survivor of domestic violence herself, Ana Bella is deeply committed to grounding her organization’s vision in empathy and cocreation, involving survivors, the media, and companies to act as changemakers to end violence against women.
Ana Bella Foundation takes a three-pronged approach to its work:
- It challenges the way society views survivors of abuse. It does so by partnering with media, companies and other entities with wide audiences to run campaigns that showcase the power of survivors, demonstrating their strength as opposed to powerlessness. She changes narratives, e.g., instead of talking about women being ‘victims of violence’ she focuses on the perpetrators: ‘men are killing these women.’ Instead of using images showing the physical consequences of abuses such as bruisers, Ana Bella Foundation shows the positive testimonies of survivors to encourage others to break the silence.
- On empowerment of survivors to take control of their lives and to live without stigma. Survivors are not the problem but the crucial part of the solution. Ana Bella Foundation trains survivors to transform their suffering into expertise and empathy to act as changemakers: they detect and support the invisible victims and accompany them to the official resources, working in coordination with them. As a consequence, public resources become more
effective and available to invisible victims, especially those who are not normally monitored by social services because of their prevalent economic, social and professional situations. Victims receive immediate response and customised support from a peer-to-peer network of survivors. Victims do not return with their abuser and do not withdraw the filed cases. Victims become empowered survivors who help others to overcome abuse. They transform their trauma into empathy, acting as changemakers who are part of the solution.
- It educates others on how to best support survivors and co-creates with companies and the media effective solutions to generate systemic changes addressing violence against women effectively. The Foundation supports government agencies in designing programs and policies that detect, protect, and employ survivors. It trains social workers that build their capacity in empathy and empowerment-based approaches. It also provides training to teenagers to foster healthy relationships and recognize early signs of violence. Teenagers then lead the change in educational communities and support their peers. Partnering with companies, Ana Bella Foundation offers a systemic change training to their staff to qualify as
changemakers to address violence against women and develops protocols to detect and support the invisible victims. This accelerates social change to provide a safe space at work to Break the Silence, find help and speed up their recovery.
READ MORE ABOUT ANA BELLA HERE
Ashoka Fellow, Ute Latzel, leads the Federal Association of Mothers’ Centres based in Germany. The Association creates safe spaces, namely centers and multi-generational housing, for women and mothers. This work fosters solidarity and safety among mothers who experience marginalisation or who are without adequate resources to care for their children.
Further, this work affords mothers the opportunity to expand their agency by choosing the way they live, bucking patriarchal narratives. For example, in Germany, many young mothers are led to believe they should take low-wage jobs to avoid high taxes. This, of course, equates to low income and little independence, and for those who want to divorce, poverty. Mothers’ centres correct these misconceptions so women can secure fair-wage jobs and live lives consistent with their own beliefs.
Ashoka Fellow, Riccarda Zezza, established LIFEED to challenge patriarchal narratives about maternity leave. Maternity leave is often thought of as “time away,” a perception that Riccarda believes has been created from a patriarchal perspective that does not value care, and for men. Riccarda says a more accurate perception or reframing is that it is a time of growth. It is a time for learning and identity formation. LIFEED allows men to take an active role in adopting and spreading this narrative.
Riccarda envisions a world where tending to the family is considered a “value generator” for professional life. To realize this vision, Riccarda advises companies’ human resources departments on how to incorporate these values into their organisational culture and business practices. She has also created a digital tool, LIFEED, to foster community and shared learning among mothers on maternity leave.
Riccarda also delivers a program called ‘Men as Allies’. This program encourages men to take on greater familial responsibility to contribute equally at home as much as they contribute at work, and to improve their soft skills at work. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this work has become particularly salient. The pandemic forced families to wrestle with the distribution of familial responsibility. Families were sheltering in
place together and learning to balance work, household chores, and childcare. Riccarda believes this reality ushered in changes in mindset, one that helped people to see that men and women should share in the work it takes to maintain a healthy family.
READ MORE ABOUT RICCARDA HERE
In 2014, Marie Eloy, launched Femmes de Bretagne, a regional network that empowers women to start small businesses. At a national scale since 2019, Femmes des Territoires offers year-round hundreds of workshops to equip women with the professional skills required for starting in entrepreneurship. Femmes des Territoires has grown to 6000+ members across 50 cities.
In addition to Femmes des Territoires, Marie has launched Bouge ta Boite, a business network. After learning that 70% of women in France don’t earn a living from their activity, she created Bouge ta Boite to help women entrepreneurs lead and develop sustainable ventures. Through both Bouge ta Boite and Femmes des Territoires, 5000 workshops per year across France are organised.
Marie drives home that women are an essential part of the economy, and their contribution is of great importance to development, as important as men’s ones.
Ashoka Fellow, Alexandra Machado, established Girl Move Academy to build young girls’ changemaker competencies and equip them with the knowledge, resources, and networks to develop as leaders. Alexandra saw the throughline from patriarchal narratives to girls’ poor access to education and later life outcomes (e.g., poverty, and scant leadership opportunities). To address this issue, she built mentorship, internship and capacity-building programs, which place women as role models in the lives of young girls. UNESCO has recognized Girl Move’s programming as one of the best education programs in the world.
GirlMove Academy methodology is based on sisterhood circles for impact. Different generations of young women/girls support each other, learn from each other, and activate each other to become changemakers in society. In-powering women is the key, activate inner light, She for She. COVID-19 posed a new challenge for Girl Move. To meet the needs of young girls, many of whom were no longer attending school, Girl Move pivoted to deliver its programming online. Alexandra and her team built a digital platform, Movhers, so mentors and girls could continue discussing key issues around gender and their future aspirations. Roughly 4,000 girls worldwide register for this platform annually.
READ MORE ABOUT GIRLMOVE HERE
Sonja has developed a new framework to ensure that local experts across Latin America, Asia, Africa and beyond have the know-how and power to drive technology-rich solutions to the developmental challenges their local communities care about most. This Inclusive Network model intentionally limits the power footprint of international NGOs (iNGOs) by cultivating respect for the ‘power of local’.
Sonja launched her model’s first iteration, the Flying Labs Network, in 2016. More than 30 Flying Labs are now operational and enable local experts across Asia, Africa and Latin America to use drones and AI technology to design solutions to local problems.
Over 220 local experts and 175 local partners across this Network are now engaging both private and public sector organizations to implement locally generated and/or administered projects.
The Flying Labs themselves have hosted 60 in-country knowledge-sharing events to strengthen local ecosystems and train more than 2,500 professionals locally on integrating drones in their own work.
Systems Change: Rules, Roles, Relationships, and Resources
The Inclusive Network model followed by WeRobotics ensures that solutions to developmental challenges are generated and administered locally, and that resource-rich iNGOs commit to an ‘end game’, or eventual exit from in-country projects, fundamentally shifting their relationships with these countries. For example, WeRobotics will leave the Flying Labs Network altogether, handing over all decision-making roles to in-country teams. A number of iNGOs are in ongoing conversations with WeRobotics about how to transition to an Inclusive Network approach, and WeRobotics’ Shift the Power Strategy is engaging them in conversation about how best to measure just how much they can reduce their power footprints and transfer resources across the Majority World.
Activation of Changemakers
Between 2019 and 2021, Sonja’s model enabled the transfer of more than 340 project opportunities from iNGOs and international companies to locally led Flying Labs. More than 200 Flying Labs leaders are also using their expertise to lead more than 100 technology-driven projects that they themselves have designed and chosen to implement. Additionally, women make up 26% of this Network – double the industry average.
READ MORE ABOUT SONJA HERE
Ashoka Fellow, Isabella Lenarduzzi, founded her organisation JUMP to create a more equitable and inclusive society by working with organisations to achieve gender equality and fair representation of diversity.
JUMP’s mission is to help change the world and change companies. They work for a fairer society and more inclusive organisations. JUMP puts equality between women and men at the heart of its work because they believe that, by addressing 50% of the population, gender equality is the most powerful lever for building the basics of inclusion and tackling all other inequalities and under-representations.
To achieve these goals, JUMP offers numerous studies and tools free of charge and provides a wide range of solutions to public and private organisations.
READ MORE ABOUT ISABELLA HERE
Ashoka Fellow, Sylwia Chutnik, founded the MaMa Foundation to prevent the social, economic, and cultural exclusion of mothers, particularly teenage mothers. Specifically, MaMa Foundation addresses the invisibility of mothers in the workforce and society in general by equipping mothers with the skills and support system needed to re-enter the workforce.
Sylwia’s journey to this work was an evolution. She began by advocating for mothers’ rights and this gradually grew to advocate for the rights of women from minority communities, LGBTQI+ communities, and human rights writ large. Coming out as queer mother in 2020, she became a role model and an ambassador for the LGBTQI+ community in Poland. Sylwia says her endeavors are intersectional; she considers individuals’ varying identities and social structures when advocating for rights. This lens, too, is what drives the work at the MaMa Foundation.