Woman sits in a conference room and talks to other team members

FOCUS TOPIC: GENDER EQUALITYSeeing diversity as opportunity

Around the world, structural discrimination against women and girls means that they have fewer educational and career opportunities, are less well paid than their male colleagues and receive poorer public services, e.g. health care.

By specifically addressing gender aspects, companies can act as important role models. At the same time, they can respond to the growing demand of customers and increasing pressure from shareholders for products that are manufactured responsibly in line with social standards. Focusing on female target groups in development-related sectors also presents opportunities to tap into new business sectors and close major gaps in local supply.

For this reason, the develoPPP programme of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) promotes business initiatives that sustainably improve the situation of women in developing countries and emerging markets. 

The cooperation not only enabled us to benefit from country-specific know-how, but also from experience in gender equality. These benefits have been indispensable in strengthening our supply chain.
Ingrid Porss, Strategic Lead Women Empowerment at Lindex

Companies can act at different levels to promote the equal participation of women, while simultaneously harnessing new business opportunities.

  • Increasing the employment and income opportunities of female employees
    A low level of formal and vocational education and training leads to a greater risk of unemployment and low income. Practical initial and continuing training measures at companies can significantly improve women’s employability and enhance their income opportunities. At the same time, the companies themselves benefit from better trained staff. Projects supported through develoPPP not only support women in their respective occupations but also help them to branch out into new careers, for instance in the IT sector.
  • Strengthening the role of women as entrepreneurs and leaders
    Women often find it as difficult to access capital as it is to climb the management ladder. This not only cements gender-specific roles and limits women’s access to resources, but also leads to a substantial loss in innovative and economic potential. Through develoPPP-funded projects, for example, employees receive access to gender-based advisory and awareness-raising services and female entrepreneurs are supported with growing their business.
  • Development-related services geared to everyday aspects of women’s lives
    A stronger focus on female target groups is particularly important in the health sector. The many challenges and risks faced by women and girls with regard to their sexual and reproductive health, for example, are exacerbated by stigmatisation, shame and structural discrimination. develoPPP-backed cooperation arrangements provide support, for example, through education and awareness-raising measures on sexually transmitted diseases and by facilitating access to health care services and contraceptives.
Entrepreneur sells produce at her market stall (Kenya)

KENYA: Gender equality in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Gender inequality is an ongoing problem in East African SMEs, which is also reflected in the low number of female entrepreneurs. Impact investor AlphaMundi Group Ltd. has joined hands with DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH in setting up gender-sensitive systems and structures and involving women in business processes. The measures are intended to strengthen women’s participation in the labour market, give them better long-term prospects as entrepreneurs or managers and mobilise more capital from the private sector.

Woman explains female condom to pedestrian (Tansania)

TANZANIA: Health protection and sexual self-determination

In Tanzania it is hoped that an innovative contraceptive – the female condom – will help to curb sexually transmitted diseases. Through awareness-raising and counselling, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH worked with the Female Health Company (FHC) to remove any stigmas associated with the contraceptive and advocate sexual self-determination for women. By the end of the project, 99 public health institutions and 60 other distribution stations were providing advice on the topic and distributing condoms. FHC tapped into new marketing channels and successfully expanded its business activities to include the Tanzanian market.

Hospital employees are lined up in front of a hospital (Burundi)

BURUNDI: Medical care systems for pregnant women and children

Maternal and infant mortality rates are very high in Burundi. One reason for this is that many women fail to attend the prescribed antenatal and postnatal check-ups and to receive vaccinations. In a pilot project with DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, ICT company Soft Center S.A. is trialling the development of an innovative electronic health service, which aims to reach at least 20,000 pregnant women and their pre-school children. The women receive online reminders to attend obligatory antenatal check-ups and to have their children vaccinated in accordance with the WHO guidelines in order to prevent diseases and reduce mortality rates.

Woman stands in an alley next to baskets (India)

INDIA: Support for ‘Women in Business’ in a post-COVID-19 world

In a strategic initiative with SEWA Bank Ltd., the Frankfurt School and DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH are pursuing an approach specifically geared to female Indian entrepreneurs in a world post COVID-19. ‘Women in Business’ is a comprehensive strategy that addresses the multidimensional obstacles faced by female owners of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). The overall aim is to increase the financial activities and business skills of 2,000 trained female entrepreneurs and to reach 5,000 female entrepreneurs through online training courses.

Seamstresses in textile production work on sewing machines (Bangladesh)

BANGLADESH: Improving women’s rights along the textile supply chain

Swedish textile company Lindex AB worked with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to mainstream gender aspects in the corporate strategy and HR management of textile suppliers in Bangladesh. In this context, they cooperated not only with the suppliers themselves, but also with industry and employer associations, the Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Bangladesh Ministry of Commerce, trade unions and the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. The guidelines drafted during this process were incorporated into a toolbox that can be used at international level. A community-led women’s café was also set up, where employees receive advice and further training on labour law issues.

supplier companies
improved their environmental and social standards
were trained in gender issues
working conditions have improved
Selected results of the cooperation between Lindex and GIZ Bangladesh between June 2017 and May 2021
Woman working at a loom

develoPPP Classic

develoPPP Classic is aimed at medium-sized and large companies that want to invest sustainably in a developing or emerging country and expand their operational activities locally. Suitable projects receive technical and financial support of up to two million euros in public funding.

Young empoyees in a discussion during a business meeting

develoPPP Ventures

develoPPP Ventures is aimed at young companies that are already active with an innovative business model in a developing or emerging country and are ready to take the next step. Within the framework of a matching funds model, a public growth investment of 100,000 euros is possible.

Ulrich Boysen
Ulrich Boysen Senior Consultant Agency for Business & Economic Development
Hans-Joachim Hebgen
Hans-Joachim Hebgen Senior Consultant Agency for Business & Economic Development
Daniel Thomann
Daniel Thomann Head of Programme DEG Impulse gGmbH
Kathinka Kurz
Kathinka Kurz Head of Programme Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH