One specific issue is that women continue to face significant challenges that affect every aspect of their lives. Women in rural areas especially, face an uphill battle compared to their counterparts in urban areas.
Rural women constitute roughly a fourth of the world’s population meaning a large part of the world’s population is not empowered and are thus unable to contribute to building a sustainable economy.
Culturally assigned roles is one of the key issues that severely limit rural women’s participation in employment opportunities. These culturally assigned roles lead to stereo types in the way women are treated by society and thereby inhibiting the women from participating in and benefiting from employment opportunities. It is thus imperative that women are not only given opportunities, but also given direction through which they are empowered and can gain a level of independence and equality.
Education remains a key aspect that can contribute to social and economic empowerment. The question is how can we work together towards solving this issue. Realising that part of the solution to the problem is not only to take responsibility for the issue, but to take active ownership of possible interventions to solving it. Business, government and civil society should work together towards women’s empowerment and upliftment, at Coca-Cola we refer to this type of collaboration as a ‘golden triangle’ partnership. Expecting one entity to solve all the issues in isolation may set that entity up for failure, whereas a partnership could lead to more positive results.
The Coca-Cola Company in partnership with UN Women has taken action with their 5by20 programme which aims to enable the economic empowerment of five million women entrepreneurs across our value chain by 2020. We strongly believe in investing in women to spur economic growth. We also realise that the health and sustainability of our business is dependent on thriving communities.
The realization that it will take more than a corporate’s investment, Coca-Cola South Africa partnered with UN Women to ensure the programme stays on track and strategically aligns with bigger goals and initiatives within our country. The partnership allows combining Coca-Cola’s vision for women empowerment with UN Women’s experience and expertise in promoting gender equality and economic empowerment. With UN Women sharing our belief that investing in women is essential to spurring economic growth; the partnership was a logical fit.
Through the 5by20 programme, women are able to gain access to business skills through the training done by Hand in Hand, our implementation partner. Furthermore through the training these women gain access to support networks of peers and experienced mentors. The programme is assisting South African women and women globally to succeed as entrepreneurs whilst enabling the creation of thriving, sustainable communities.
To date approximately 7000 women entrepreneurs have been trained in South Africa alone.
The programme supports the government’s priorities of building sustainable communities and enforcing gender equality. This was reinforced with the National Assembly adopting the Gender Equality Bill. Although the Bill has received some criticism, it represents a step in the right direction in terms of the focus on gender equality. Furthermore, while the Department of Women is working across the departments in ensuring gender is mainstreamed in all its programs, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) have committed their efforts towards gender equality and women empowerment in their Strategic Framework on Gender and Women Empowerment of the Department of Trade & Industry.
It is no longer just important, but instead it is necessary that more and more partnerships are formed to address issues faced by the majority of people in our country. In order to build a country that is self-efficient and sustainable, corporates need to stop hiding behind a once-off cheque and rather invest in projects that yield tangible results.