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

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

Ashoka, Open Society Foundation and UN Women


Johannesburg, South Africa, 15 June 2018 – Ashoka, Open Society Foundations, and UN Women have announced that 12 women’s organizations will each receive a cash prize of $24,500 and participate in a week-long exchange in Johannesburg, South Africa, for their work in challenging gender norms and women’s economic empowerment. The event will help raise the profile of their organizations, develop tools and resources to grow their strategies, and foster learning to inspire others.

The initiative has selected 12 Finalists from over 155 outstanding women’s changemaker organizations across Africa and the Middle East. These organizations are building collaborative solutions that have the potential to:

  • Increase inclusiveness for women from all walks of life to access economic and social opportunities. This-Ability, challenges societal norms and perceptions around gender, disability and sexuality in Kenya by pushing boundaries through media and art and creating spaces for thought provoking conversations to influence policies.
  • Improve access to support mechanisms ensuring women have a voice in decisions and policies that shape their economic livelihoods. Myrtle Witbooi, President of the International Domestic Workers’ Federation in South Africa is focused on ensuring that domestic workers are equipped to advocate for their rights to be covered under occupational and safety law.
  • Create environments that enable women to access credit and/or other products and services. In Eastern Congo, L’Union pour l’Emancipation de la Femme Autochthone is integrating Pygmy peoples, mainly women, into economic and social life and is working to develop a permanent credit fund with an interest rate of 1%.

The winning organizations were selected from among 155 organizations nominated across the Middle East and Africa as part of the partnerships’ Challenging Norms, Powering Economies initiative. They were chosen for their programs, which challenge pervasive norms limiting women’s economic benefit and contributions and put their voices and solutions at the center of the conversation. The pool of applicants powerfully demonstrates how women changemakers and their organizations are already building partnerships that break down sector and industry silos.

"The winners have all demonstrated--in brave, unique and entrepreneurial ways--that pervasive social barriers and discriminatory policies holding women back from assuming their equal place in today's economy can, indeed, be overcome. And that these examples can provide great inspiration for others seeking to achieve the same," said David Bright, Division Director of The Open Society Foundations’ Economic Advancement Program.

The Challenge Fund covers an all-expenses-paid invitation to participate in the Collaborative Exchange, June 18-19, and the Impact!Africa Summit, June 20-22, both in Johannesburg, South Africa. From the $24,500 cash prize, $2,000 is allotted to support from external consultants on capacity development. After the two-day Collaborative Exchange to share and build on their ideas, they will have an opportunity to further develop their proposals and submit for a final round of judging and larger cash prizes. The initiative will culminate in a celebration in October 2018 where three final prize recipients will also be announced.

““We must ensure an inclusive world of work where no one is left behind. Our finalists are inspiring leaders and changemakers who are contributing to changing social norms across sectors and local communities in Africa. Their insights and stories about promoting women’s economic empowerment will help us powering our economies,” said Anna Falth, Policy Advisor, WE EMPOWER Programme Manager. UN Women


About Challenging Norms, Powering Economies

Organized by Ashoka, the Open Society Foundation (OSF) and UN Women, the Challenging Norms, Powering Economies initiative supports collaboration that enables women to actively participate in the economy of Africa and the Middle East, and reach their full potential. The challenge seeks to connect women changemakers who are collaborating with a broad range of partners, in particular businesses and governments, while supporting their organizations’ efforts to promote gender equality and economic empowerment. More information about the challenge can be found on https://womenschallenge.ashoka.org/.


About Ashoka

Ashoka is leading the way to an "Everyone a Changemaker" World. As the world's largest network of changemakers and social innovators, with more than 3,000 social entrepreneurs in 70 countries, Ashoka aims to bring about large-scale social change. Ashoka supports innovators to get started, grow their ideas, collaborate, reshape whole systems and influence societal transformation. Founded in 1980, with the belief that the most powerful force in the world is a big idea in the hands of an entrepreneur, Ashoka applies insights from the world's leading social entrepreneurs to set in motion profound societal transformation. Current insights indicate that our rapidly changing world calls for an "Everyone a Changemaker" world, one where every person practices the critical skills of empathy, teamwork, leadership and changemaking to command change across silos and be a contributor. For more information on Ashoka, please visit www.ashoka.org, Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.


About the Open Society Foundation

Open Society Foundations works to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. In partnership with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundation supports justice and human rights, freedom of expression and the right of society to have access to health and education.


About UN Women

UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. UN Women supports UN Member States as they set global standards for achieving gender equality and works with governments and civil society to design laws, policies, programmes and services needed to implement these standards. It stands behind women’s equal participation in all aspects of life, focusing on five priority areas: increasing women’s leadership and participation; ending violence against women; engaging women in all aspects of peace and security processes; enhancing women’s economic empowerment; and making gender equality central to national development planning and budgeting. UN Women also coordinates and promotes the UN system’s work in advancing gender equality. For more information about our work on women’s economic empowerment, please visit www.unwomen.org and www.empowerwomen.org.