About The Challenge

Women and girls in Africa and the Middle East continue to face cultural and social norms blocking  them from full economic and social participation. These have serious consequences for women, including discrimination in hiring; harassment and physical violence; restrictions on mobility; lack of rights to control income and own property; and unequal share of unpaid care work.

Widespread solutions to overcome these barriers have been twofold: the promotion of jobs and women as entrepreneurs. These alone are not enough to overcome deeper structural and systemic barriers. It is increasingly clear that collaboration – alliances for change – are necessary to bridge the divide. Together, individuals and institutions from the nonprofit, government, philanthropic, and business sectors can maximize their diverse perspectives, resources, and influence to challenge the status quo and improve outcomes together.

The Challenging Norms, Powering Economies challenge seeks to connect women changemakers who are collaborating with unlikely partners – across businesses, governments, and many other sectors – while supporting their organizations’ efforts to promote gender equality and economic empowerment.

How can we support collaboration that enables women to actively participate in the economy and reach their full potential?



Ashoka, the Open Society Foundations and UN Women have announced that 4 women’s organizations from Africa have been selected as winners of the Challenging Norms, Powering Economies initiative for their work to challenge gender norms in women’s economic empowerment.  They will each receive $125,000 and will speak at an event at UN Women on December 6th.

10/12 winners

12 Winning Changemaker Organizations of the Challenging Norms, Powering Economies Initiative

Ashoka, Open Society Foundation and UN Women



Open Society Foundations, Ashoka and UN Women will host a very special event to celebrate the winners of our

220 E 42nd Street,
New York NY - 10017

Meet the winners

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Olidia Connexion


The Problem

Prior to the ME TOO movement, there were few actions to combat violence against women in an educational or professional environment. When Bernadette, founder of the Olidia Connexion, accused her former boss of misconduct, she was fired from work and found herself alone. 

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Women Empowerment Projects Initiative (WEPSI)


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International Domestic Workers Federation (South Africa)


The Problem

All workers in the formal sector enjoy legal protection of their rights. Exclusion of domestic workers in legal protection and social securities prevails. Sometimes it is due to non-enforcement of laws and sometimes it is due to outright exclusion in the legislation or law themselves.

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Grandmother Project - Change Through Culture



The Problem

In southern Senegal there are three critical interrelated issues threatening children and families:

  1. Breakdown in communication between generations with communities distressed by the problem but with no strategies to solve it;

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Nana Women and Girls Empowerment Initiatives

The Problem

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Union for the Emancipation of the Aboriginal Woman - L’Union pour l’Emancipation de la Femme Autochtone


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Dictaf Corporation


The Problem

Senegal has large areas of arable land and 70% of the active population are in the rural area and practice agriculture. Yet the country can not achieve food self-sufficiency. Dictaf has identified several reasons for this:

  1. Farmers do not have access to information


Ashoka would like to thank the following partners for their generous support.