“Joint actions, team expertise and spirit” was the fitting title of a five-day mid-term review workshop of the Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises (EOWE) programme that took place in the Netherlands in late September 2018. A total of 17 EOWE programme staff from Vietnam, Kenya and the Netherlands came together to reflect on the past 2.5 years of implementation and to analyse progress and achievements towards empowering women in entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainable resilient agriculture.
To advance women’s economic participation and self-reliance in Kenya and Vietnam, the EOWE programme focuses on three key components: gender transformation, business/enterprise development and policy advocacy. During the workshop, the team shared the initial results of a recently conducted mid-term review, showing an overall income increase and improved empowerment status for more than 10,000 women in Kenya and Vietnam.
Changes in gender norms
The review of the project's initial results show an overall positive change in gender norms that hinder women from starting or running a successful agribusiness. In Vietnam, the study shows an increase in women’s control over the use of income and their participation and influence in groups in their communities. In Kenya, the biggest impact is seen in women’s access to and decision-making power over credit, as well as their control over the use of income. The programme sees an increase in joint decision-making between men and women in Kenya on how to spend money in the household and in business.
In both countries, the programme focused on reducing workload for women through better division of labour within the household. The mid-term review however shows a decline in empowerment on workload for both men and women in both countries. This means that more women and men now spend over 10.5 hours a day on productive and reproductive tasks than in 2016. Potential explanations of this decline in empowerment on workload are that due to cultural norms women want to keep control over reproductive work or that women provide support to their husbands in household tasks in this period in which the division of labour is shifting.
EOWE mid-term review in The Hague
Representatives of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs join a workshop session
Developing women’s enterprises
Under the business component, the EOWE programme focuses on increasing women’s business and farming skills and access to inputs, productive assets, finance and markets. During the meeting, key business case studies were presented, including a gender-responsive climate smart rice production and mushroom business model from Vietnam and a women-led chicken-raising business model from Kenya. One of the key challenges that was highlighted is that once enterprises start to grow and become more formal, part of the control and decision-making tends to transfer to men. In the remaining 2.5 years, the programme will gather more insights on the underlying causes of this trend and how the programme could increase/sustain women’s decision-making power, while facilitating enterprise growth.
Enabling policy environment for women entrepreneurship
The EOWE programme complements its social transformation and enterprise development interventions with policy influencing and advocacy activities to build the capacity of government and civil society actors to advocate for, develop and implement gender-sensitive policies and plans. One of the great successes that was shared was how the programme is supporting the development and implementation of a nation-wide women business support programme in Vietnam. In Kenya, the programme is supporting civil society organisations in each of the 8 counties it works in by increasing their capacity to advocate for policies and budgets that address the needs and interests of women entrepreneurs at county level.
EOWE staff on a field trip to a dairy farm in The Netherlands
EOWE staff learn about the process to make Dutch cheese
Cross-country sharing of successes and points for improvement in the key areas of the programme, like household dialogues methodology, business models and advocacy, accelerated learning within the programme and provided a lot of inspiration and food for thought.
The monitoring data that was collected on the progress of the programme indicates that the programme will meet most targets. The key conclusion and recommendation that was drawn is that the results should be achieved in the most sustainable way so that the interventions have a lasting impact on the empowerment of women and their enterprises.