THE BLOG
04/30/2013 10:01 am ET Updated Jun 30, 2013

The Artisan Changemaker: Integrating Market-Driven Solutions to Poverty With Catalytic Philanthropy in Women's Empowerment

From a Core Belief in Women's Empowerment...

At Indego Africa, we believe in the power of equal opportunity and that, in many areas around the globe where certain populations of women lack even basic opportunities, that working with those women is the right thing to do, it leads to efficient outcomes, it is smart business, and it keeps us safe.

First, a powerful narrative shaped by works like Half the Sky and many others sets forth a clear case about the moral imperative we share to remedy gender inequity worldwide. In that sense, economic development with women-owned and -operated businesses is one approach to tackling that central 21st century moral challenge.

Second, when you invest in women, you benefit from a multiplier effect. You can achieve more with less. Not only do women reinvest earned income in their families and communities, but women's education helps remove social, political, and economic barriers and even leads to better health outcomes.

Third, smart businesses and organizations increasingly recognize significant future growth in women's share of the labor market and the consumer market -- especially in areas like consumer goods. Those businesses and organizations can then forecast the importance of empowering precisely that population that will likely become a crucial long-term source of both human capital and purchasing power for their products.

Finally, job creation and access to a functional economy for hundreds of women whose families would otherwise remain trapped in generational cycles of poverty can go a long way toward reducing security threats in regions around the globe.

...To Indego Africa's Theory of Change

Indego Africa seeks to advance the global women's empowerment imperative by providing socially and economically marginalized women with the tools and support to reclaim their futures, flourish as independent businesswomen, and become driving forces of development in their own communities. To accomplish this, Indego Africa leverages the untapped potential of artisan enterprises to rapidly improve standards of living and to drive long-term employment and income-generation opportunities for women worldwide.

Many women artisans in developing countries need both ways to raise their families' standard of living now and access to educational pathways that move them toward financial independence in the future. Each of Indego Africa's artisan partners is a stakeholder in a women-led artisan business. By partnering with Indego Africa, each woman earns income through participation in our market access program to meet their families' basic needs, while concurrently enhancing her long-term earning potential as a student in our job skills classrooms.

Indego Africa's market access program integrates women artisans into global commerce and the global economy almost immediately. We combine high-quality and on-trend designs, scalable supply chains, and fair trade best practices to engage and build durable relationships with retail customers, wholesale clients, and major U.S. brands and labels seeking products with a strong social component, ethnic content, and modern design aesthetics. As a result, our market access program connects women artisans with a large existing consumer goods fashion market, allowing them to tap into increased opportunities provided by movements such as ethical consumerism or sustainable fashion.

Indego Africa's job skills training programs span management, entrepreneurship, literacy, computers, and health. They remove the barriers -- both personal and structural -- to women artisans participating in global commerce over the long-term and without our assistance. Our training programs, run in parallel with our market access program, provide a high-value philanthropic opportunity for donors to fund an education that will give a woman the tools to become financially independent.

At root, Indego Africa's model merges global market access with capacity-building training to solve fundamental issues of access and opportunity facing women artisans. Indego Africa hopes to incubate an entrepreneurial artisan ecosystem in which self-sustaining units of hopeful, confident women effectuate transformative change by empowering themselves and, in places like Rwanda, foster social cohesion in a post-conflict context.

Together, we can scale this impact to create sustainable livelihoods for more women, unleashing more empowered female changemakers in more communities, and unlocking economic growth and social progress in entire nations. Come join us.

-- Conor French, CEO

A corporate attorney turned social entrepreneur, Conor is the CEO of Indego Africa and committed business partner to more than 500 women entrepreneurs in Rwanda. Conor believes deeply in the power of global markets, education and partnerships to drive economic growth, create jobs, and promote sustainable livelihoods in the developing world.

You can support Indego Africa through the Huffington Post's "Raise for Women" challenge at http://www.crowdrise.com/indegoafrica-rfw

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