MujerProspera Challenge Winners

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After reviewing nearly 400 applications, USAID is excited to announce the selection of nine winners of the MujerProspera Challenge. The winners will participate in a $5 million dollar cohort in funding and technical assistance to advance gender equality in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras through women’s economic security, employment, and entrepreneurship.

The winning organizations bring innovative and impactful solutions to promote women’s agency, safety, and access to power, resources, fair and stable long-term income, and labor protections in the workplace. Seven of the nine winners are local partners, three are regional efforts, and all will leverage private sector support to advance women’s economic security and address harmful gender norms, enabling safe work environments. Their intersectional approaches will root out systemic barriers and discrimination, addressing the needs of women and girls in all their diversity, particularly those from marginalized and underserved populations.

After reviewing nearly 400 applications.

Learn more about the winners below.


The Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School

In El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, women’s opportunities in sustainable agriculture are limited by harmful norms across agricultural value chains and existing power structures in the household that lead to the unequal distribution of domestic labor. These limitations are further exacerbated for Indigenous women.

The Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to build on its current activities in Honduras and expand efforts in El Salvador and Guatemala to address gender norms that act as a barrier to women’s engagement in agriculture. Through this initiative, Zamorano will leverage its network of graduates to reach more than 1,500 women farmers, producers, and entrepreneurs at 30 private sector organizations across the three countries. With USAID funding, Zamorano will focus on a combination of advisory and training services in skill-building and organizational policies that are supportive of a more inclusive and equitable work environment. Central to the program’s core is a 60-hour course on leadership in agriculture that targets women working in the agricultural sector, as well as the promotion of an equal opportunity employment strategy among participating companies seeking to promote women’s leadership in sustainable agriculture systems. The activities will also include significant participation from Indigenous women producers in Guatemala and Honduras. This project aims to increase the participation of women in leadership and decision-making roles across multiple agricultural value chains, improve gender equality on family and commercial farms, and create a support network for women leaders across the industry.


Business Foundation for Social Action

In El Salvador, the average income of women is lower than that of men, and women also tend to be underrepresented in decision-making positions in the workplace. When businesses put policies and programs in place to guarantee minimum working conditions, they often fail to consider gender and how those policies and programs might affect women.

To address these issues, the Business Foundation for Social Action (FUNDEMAS) will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to strengthen the agency and entrepreneurial skills of 400 women in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The organization will also work with 300 small and mid-sized enterprises and 60 companies to promote a safe work environment and ensure women’s economic security. In addition to essential skill-building, this project seeks to influence the company culture of the organizations where women work. This involves the co-creation and promotion of tools supportive of an inclusive work environment, including those that reduce gender-based violence and enhance labor protections, in collaboration with company leadership. FUNDEMAS will also organize safe spaces and a women’s support network at participating companies. Finally, FUNDEMAS will use USAID funding to roll out an awareness-raising campaign to encourage a culture of denouncing harassment in the workplace.


Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere

In Honduras and Guatemala, women microentrepreneurs and producers, particularly Indigenous women, often face economic insecurity and insecure working environments due to lack of access to financial resources, lack of knowledge and skills to develop sustainable economic initiatives, weak market linkages and business networks, and harmful gender norms.

To address these problems, the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to enable a safe and equitable work environment and increase economic security for 500 women food producers in Cortes and Comayagua in Honduras and Chimaltanango and Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. CARE will partner with Cargill, an American global food corporation that will contribute an additional $500,000 to the project, as well as the Business Development Center in Honduras and the Center for Women's Studies in Guatemala. These partners will build on evidence-based practices to enhance women’s income, decision-making, and ability to access resources through skill development, market linkages, and business networks in fish, meat, poultry, dairy, grain, and vegetable production. CARE’s training will include a proven methodology for enhancing business skills and promoting women’s autonomy, digital literacy, and innovative methodologies to diagnose the root causes of gender-based violence and promote non-violent and egalitarian attitudes, behaviors, and norms among producers, farmers, and small business owners.


The Tikonel Association of Productive Development and Services

In Guatemala, structural issues such as malnutrition, lack of employment, inequality, poverty, and conflict prevent economic development and lead to increased migration. While women are generally responsible for maintaining the household, they lack the necessary access to education and opportunities for long-term stable employment that increases overall household income. These problems are exacerbated in rural areas and particularly among vulnerable groups, such as women, children, and Indigenous populations.

To address these issues, the Tikonel Association of Productive Development and Services, a Guatemalan non-governmental organization (NGO), will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to enhance women’s engagement and pathways to sustainable employment in mushroom production. The association will strengthen the ability of 150 Indigenous women mushroom producers in 12 communities in Guatemala’s Totonicapan Municipality to increase their yields, as well as open promising new local markets. They will work with the Municipal Office of Food and Safety and local schools to integrate oyster mushrooms into regional public school meal plans, greatly increasing demand for their product and improving food security. The association will provide supplies, equipment, and training, as well as strengthen market identification, branding, and packaging, all through a fair trade lens. Additionally, USAID funding will support capacity-building that provides Indigenous women with skills in business plan design, seed production, certification, and commercialization. Indigenous women will also receive guidance as they organize themselves into a cooperative structure with legal standing to ensure a sustainable and robust business enterprise that will last long after the USAID funding period ends.


Justice Education Society of British Columbia

Women and girls in Guatemala face pervasive gender inequality gaps in all sectors and domains, but particularly in decision-making for the family and community, political and social participation, access to resources, and distribution of domestic and reproductive work. Gender inequality is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that allow men to exert control over women’s autonomy, causing low self-esteem, a lack of understanding of their rights and resources, and violence against women and girls. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social restrictions and curfews imposed by the government have also increased rates of domestic violence and exacerbated existing economic struggles.

To address these issues, the local Guatemalan office of the Justice Education Society of British Columbia (BC) will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to carry out an integrated approach to economic development for women survivors of gender-based violence that combines psychosocial support, technical skill development, and public legal education and information. Working in collaboration with the Survivors Foundation, the Justice Education Society will improve the marketable skills of 300 transgender women, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities in competitive industries in Guatemala. The partners will also help 70 women launch new small business ventures by the end of 2023 using skills gained through the program. With USAID funding, they will scale a proven methodology for building survivors’ economic security and independence through therapy sessions built around women’s self-esteem and barriers to empowerment, entrepreneurship support, and training in digital literacy, taxes, and legal processes, as well as through scholarships for classes. Male family members will also be invited to participate in a positive masculinities workshop to create allies in the home who support women and promote positive gender roles.


New Sun Road

Guatemala’s patriarchal societal structure excludes women, particularly Indigenous women and girls, and negatively impacts their employment, salary, and financial stability. This inequality is exacerbated by the digital divide, as many Guatemalan women do not have access to the Internet, and those with access mainly use it for messaging applications and social media rather than educational or productive uses.

To address these issues, New Sun Road (NSR) will receive funding to work in collaboration with the Ixtatán Foundation’s Guatemalan office to support up to 1,000 Indigenous rural women in the western highland departments of Alta Verapaz and Huehuetenango in Guatemala through expanded access to internet-enabled and solar-powered community centers. These safe and inclusive spaces are managed by women community leaders and provide support to women entrepreneurs and their families through training in digital literacy, financial management, problem-solving, and business, enhancing women's agency and leadership through technology. Central to NSR’s approach is increased access to information on important topics such as how to make tax payments, how to ensure adequate labor protections and childcare, and business registration, all of which will be provided in the Mayan languages of Q'eqchi, Chuj, and Popti. NSR and the Ixtatán Foundation will build on lessons learned from previously successful USAID-supported efforts in Guatemala and regionally to ensure increased connectivity, revenue, and market-based opportunities for women.


Many More Association

El Salvador has one of the largest digital gender gaps in Latin America, with a 13-percentage point difference between women and men in Internet access and a 10-percentage point difference in mobile access. This digital gap prevents women from readily entering a labor market where technological skills are increasingly important. Girls and young women also encounter gender stereotypes that affect their confidence and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

Many More Association, a women-led organization based in El Salvador, will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to work with 200 young women in San Salvador and Santa Ana to help close the digital literacy gap for women by introducing a comprehensive model for job creation. The association will use a combined approach of boot camp training, case study analysis in STEM, and psychosocial service reports to empower young women and address gender stereotypes in the workplace. With USAID funding, Many More Association will partner with the Salvadoran Chamber of Information and Communications Technologies to facilitate paid internships and job placement for the women who receive training. They will also introduce gender protocols in the workplace and partner with Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) to implement an awareness-raising campaign about women in STEM and harmful gender stereotypes using a proven model that PADF previously implemented in collaboration with Boeing and Royal Caribbean.


COHONDUCAFÉ Foundation

In Honduras, while access to quality education is improving for women, that does not translate into better economic opportunities or status. Not only are men twice as likely to join the workforce and more likely to be self-employed, but they also earn higher wages than women. When combined with Honduran macho culture, these economic inequalities often trap women in a role of subordination and dependence on men, making them more vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV).

To address these issues, the COHONDUCAFÉ Foundation will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to provide 30 women coffee growers in Honduras with the knowledge, skills, business entrepreneurship, and effective market linkages needed to strengthen their coffee processing and commercialization practices and enhance their pathways to a stable income. Beneficiaries will receive holistic training to develop business plans, as well as the skills to implement them, including leadership, accounting, marketing, administration, operating requirements, and roasting. They will also gain entry into a collective network of women entrepreneur leaders with access to equipment and tools for roasting, grinding, and packing the coffee for production.


Grameen Foundation USA

Young women living in rural poverty in Honduras face higher barriers to financing and training for enterprise activities and a critical lack of support from their spouses and other male family members to grow their businesses. These formal and informal barriers persist because business growth for women threatens long-standing gender norms that relegate them to roles as homemakers and caretakers. This problem is worsened for women of African and Indigenous descent, who are already more likely to experience economic exclusion, poverty, food insecurity, and illiteracy.

To address these problems, Grameen Foundation USA will receive funding from the MujerProspera Challenge to partner with the Women's Business Development Organization (ODEF) to engage community-level customary leadership and men in Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities in Cortes, Santa Bárbara, and Yoro, Honduras to support women’s agency and economic empowerment. They will empower the ecosystem for women entrepreneurs by introducing a proven approach for working with male spouses, partners, and family members to champion women’s business models, growth, and resilience. Through intrahousehold dialogues, this activity will target 200 food insecure women and their partners to shift gender norms and power dynamics and promote women's access to credit and financial services, as well as more equitable sharing of household responsibilities. Additionally, ODEF will provide technical assistance to participating women on financial literacy and how to develop their business models.

 

Last updated: May 26, 2022

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