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.


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


The Challenging Norms, Powering Economies challenge seeks to connect women changemakers who are collaborating with unlikely partners – across businesses, governments, and many other... more


10/12 winners

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

Ashoka, Open Society Foundation and UN Women


Meet the winners


Awareness Actions

Partnership: Olidia Connexion + ONUSIDA , Centre Wallonie Bruxelles, USAID, PNMLS

Democratic Republic of Congo


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. 


Soronko Academy

Empowering women with digital skills to be economically independent

Partnership: Soronko Academy + Stinsad Consult, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) Ghana




The Problem:


Partnership: WEPSi + private sector companies, business and education leaders



The Problem:


Women in Transport​

Partnership: Flone Initiative +  SACCOs, diverse CBOs, Matatu Workers Union and other trade unions that represent informal public transport workers. 




The Problem:


We are the guardians of nature!

Partnership: Rural Women's Assembly (RWA) is based in the SADC region and is membership based. Members include peasant groups, rural women, waste pickers and fishers and small scale farmers, all ages. They have 80,000 direct members.

South Africa



The Problem: 


Uniting for Change

Partnership: International Domestic Workers' Federation (IDWF): 67 domestic workers organizations in 54 countries representing over 600,000 domestic workers, mostly women. The 21 organizations in Africa have formed African Domestic Workers Network for voice.

South Africa



The Problem:

This Ability

Advancing Rights for Women with disabilities

Partnership: This-Ability + Dance for Charity Foundation, House of Matriarch, Luxury Network, and Kenya Reproductive Health Matters




The Problem:


Empowering Grandmothers to Empower Girls

Partnership: The Grandmother Project (GMP)- Change Through Culture +  Institutional partner (District Education Office, its school directors & teachers) and community partners (elders, adults and adolescents, and especially grandmothers)




The Problem:


Female Auto-mechanic Business to Challenge Gender Stereotype in Muslim Northern Nigeria states

Partnership: Nana Women and Girls Empowerment Initiatives + Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnics, Sokoto and Waziri Umaru Federal Polytechnics, Birnin Kebbi and Usman Danfodiyo University Sokoto



The Problem:


Develop a Financial Inclusion Fund for Women's Empowerment

Partnership: L’Union-pour-l’Emancipation-dela-Femme-Autochtone (UEFA) +  4 organizations of BCECO Sarl and grassrootes organizations (OP,OBC,MUSO,AVEC).

Democratic Republic of Congo



The Problem:

Miss Taxi

Women driving change by driving buses

Partnership: Esenam Nyador – entrepreneur and gender consultant + West African Transport Academy (consortium of Scania West Africa, GIZ and Bosch), and DVLA




The Problem:


Women feed the world, we help them produce quality

Partnership: Dictaf Corporation + NovasDux Solutions Inc. (specialized in developing and consulting IT solutions) and Tony Elumelu Foundation




The Problem:

Challenge Timeline

Nomination Deadline

The deadline to submit nominees has passed. We are no longer accepting nominations. 

Applications Due- Early Entry

Only nominees will be contacted and sent an application. We are not accepting applications from organizations that were not nominated. 

Applications Due-Final Deadline

All applications are due on Monday, April 23, 2018, 11:59 PM E.T

Winning Organizations from the Challenge are Announced


10/12 winners

06/18/2018 - 06/22/2018
Collaboration Exchange

From 155 nominations, we identified 12 winning organizations. Some of these organizations sent their representatives to Johannesburg, South Africa for a week of peer exchange, conversations of collaboration, and capacity strengthening.



Final Winners Announced

We are now moving to focus on a second, and final, submission of proposals for 4 additional prizes of $125,000 each. This round is optional and our goal for the next couple of months is to ensure that each Challenge winning organization feels supported to revise their project proposal in a way that enables them to move the work forward. We also aim for the winning organizations to find this experience practical and meaningful whether or not their proposal is selected as a final prize recipient.


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