By Pia Chatterjee
A substantial number of social enterprises aimed at helping women are concentrated in countries in the Indian subcontinent, the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) and Latin America. However, with women’s employment rate at 62.5% compared to men’s 74.3%, their wages 16% less than men’s on average, pensions similarly 39% lower, and the fact that 1 in 3 women in the European Union alone experiences physical or sexual violence at some point in her life, Europe still has some way to go to achieve equality between the sexes. Social enterprise provides a particularly appropriate avenue for women to be helped and assume leading roles in business at the same time. Read on to find out more about 5 organizations helping women move up in Europe:
- Generando Igualdad, Spain: Generando Igualdad (Generating Equality) is an association that was formed in 2000 and works tirelessly to provide opportunities for women to enter the labour market and fight against gender-based violence. They manage a handful of projects that hope to eradicate gender-based inequality artistically, with psychiatric help and consults, and through campaigns to sensitize people to gender issues. Their project “Generando Tiempo, Amadrinando Vidas” (Creating Time, Sponsoring Lives) is particularly striking from an entrepreneurial standpoint as it aims to create an enterprise providing victims of violence with sustainable income. The endeavour works on the premise that these women tend not to have access to the support and therapy needed to enter the labour market and become economically autonomous, a vital step in the kind of recovery concerned. The organization is funded thanks to crowdfunding methods and tax concessions for groups working towards gender equality provided by the government. Check out their website for more information. (Note: Website is in Spanish.)
- Why-Not Women, France: Why-Not Women is a financed project that aims to support women working in social enterprise worldwide, or social enterprises helping women. It was launched by a group of French students interested in women’s social enterprise and brings together students of the like worldwide to support and encourage small enterprises in the field. Through this project, the students not only find ways to connect directly with people working in the area they’re interested in, but also helps these small enterprises receive the aid that is crucial to correctly manage their work and expand, all the while making it clear to the world that supporting social enterprise for women is incredibly important. If you’re interested in contributing, take a look at their blog here.
- B-fit, Turkey: b-Fit is an original project that seeks to promote gender equality, education and entrepreneurship of women and girls in Turkey through sports. Launched by Bedriye Hulya in 2006, b-Fit provides women with the physical and mental space to be free from traditional gender roles and societal pressures. Structured around daily 30-minute workout sessions, it puts women in the appropriate social setting to be able to embrace their independence outside of their traditional roles, raise their self esteem and put themselves in control of their own bodies. Their mission is also concerned with promoting female entrepreneurship and creating professional opportunities for women. Their centers are located nationwide and are open to women of all ages and backgrounds. They are founded and managed entirely by women, which itself is empowering and helps them acquire a very useful set of entrepreneurial skills, not to mention that it makes them great role models for the women constantly surrounding them. A monthly membership costs between 12 and 48 euros depending on location and type. Most members are housewives (40%) with the rest comprising students, teachers, health and legal sector workers, and retirees. You can easily find the b-Fit center nearest to you on their official page, so don’t wait any longer to take control of yourself and your environment and go for a good workout!
- Bosnian Handicrafts (BHcrafts), Bosnia and Herzegovina: BHcrafts is a retail business that employs refugee women displaced by the Bosnian war. Many of these women, though illiterate, were extremely proficient in knitting when they were recruited. The firm gave them a source of sustainable income in the wake of economic and social devastation that tore them from their families and homes. It produces handwoven clothing and decorative items, having started out as a humanitarian enterprise and evolved into an impressively successful export-oriented venture. These goods, popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, the US, Spain, Italy, Japan and Kuwait, not only serve to rehabilitate these refugees but also keep them in touch with cultural traditions they hold dear. All products are made in consideration for the environment and using domestic raw materials to support the local economy to the furthest possible extent. It’s e-commerce facilities has eased its trajectory onto the international stage and made it possible for 89% of BHcrafts’ operations to be financed by its sales today. Take a look at their beautiful work on their website if you’re interested!
- Network of Mother Centers, Czech Republic: A business that has been around for almost 15 years now, Network of Mother Centers’ work is focused on alleviating the grave issue of discrimination against the mothers of small children in the Czech Republic. With unarguably low allowances for maternity leave and obvious adverse social and professional consequences for mothers that do take time off to raise their children, the strong network of centers that this practice provide is essential to achieve gender equality in the Czech context. The 335 existent centers help women and their children to meet each other in a setting that presents a large selection of activities including crafts, sports, educational programmes and requalification workshops. Open to all, counting minorities, refugees and the disabled, these sessions also provide the platform to discuss important issues of xenophobia and racism. The centers ultimately furnishes these women with the perfect amalgamation of support, professional maintenance, exchange of ideas and involvement in public issues. To learn more about this fascinating work, have a quick browse on their website. (Note: Website is in Czech.)
If you were wondering where all the women’s empowerment social enterprises were hiding in Europe, here is just the tip of the iceberg! Be sure to support the ones you find have a real social impact to nudge Europe in the right direction – towards a brighter, more equal future.