I’m writing this on International Women Day: thanks to my field of work I have never felt more connected to the global movement for women’s empowerment.
For the past year I have had the pleasure of managing the Launching Economic Achievement Program (LEAP) for Women in Jordan funded by Global Affairs Canada. Through LEAP CBIE and our partners, Ryerson University and INJAZ, are working to empower Jordanian women, growing their role in local economies, by supporting their entrepreneurial endeavours and addressing gender-specific barriers to entrepreneurship.
Feminism and Entrepreneurship
As part of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is seen as the most effective way to reduce poverty and build a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world. In Jordan, women’s participation in the workforce is low and women’s entrepreneurship rates are even lower. LEAP focuses on entrepreneurship to fuel innovation, social change, community development and job creation. Our work is also founded in “women’s economic empowerment,” because alongside entrepreneurialism, when women have the ability to control and benefit from resources, assets, income and to manage risk it can create positive change for their own economic status and general wellbeing, as well as that of their communities.
We are taking a holistic approach to bolster a cultural and institutional environment supportive of women entrepreneurs. For LEAP, this means developing and infusing gendered content interventions into high school and university curriculum; start-up incubation and acceleration support for women-led business; and (in the hopes of easing the entrepreneurs’ transition into the business world) capacity building and recognition programming for private sector stakeholders.
In practice, the project is a complex curation of connections, collaborations and contributions from a phenomenal international team. I have the privilege of being involved in all aspects, and I’d like to share with you some pieces of this work which are particularly exciting to be a part of:
- identifying and engaging all-star Jordanian and Canadian consultants who have a passion for gender equity, entrepreneurial spirits and who share a commitment to collaboration;
- working with phenomenal local staff who have dedicated their careers to supporting Jordanian youth;
- learning from the #1 university-based tech incubator in the world; and
- meeting with inspiring, young Jordanian entrepreneurs who, though faced with barriers, strive to grow their ideas and are committed to working hard to achieve their goals.
Assembling the contributions of these individuals has been at the core of my work, and by far the most rewarding aspect of my own contribution. What I have learned from these women and men has inspired me on a personal level, and encouraged me to think beyond my international development background to take on the mind-set of an entrepreneur anchored with a gender lens. I have benefited greatly from my involvement with this project, and this sentiment is echoed by each individual, organization and project partner.
What’s next for LEAP?
While the focus of our work will continue to be economic empowerment of Jordanian women, I welcome this continued learning and inspiration for all those involved with the project. In this spirit, our LEAP advisors and partners will be asked to share their experiences with our CBIE community via this blog. I would encourage you to follow our progress and continue to share in the cross-cultural learning.
Anne Christensen manages international partnerships with the Canadian Bureau for International Education