Four Grand Winners of the Challenging Norms, Powering Economies Announced

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.

The winners of this challenge, from the initial 12 finalists of the challenge identified in May 2018, are helping to increase inclusiveness and improve access for women to make decisions that advance their livelihood potential. Women and girls in Africa and the Middle East continue to face cultural and social norms blocking them from full economic and social participation. Worldwide, women on average earn between 10 and 30 percent less than working men and are only half as likely as men have full-time wage jobs for an employer. They spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work such as caring and housework and across developing countries.  More than one in three women has experienced either physical or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner sexual violence.  These realities continue to affect women's ability to participate equally in the economy.

The winners’ initiatives were evaluated by an expert panel of judges and chosen for their powerful solutions that A. enable women to access cultural, social, and political arenas while increasing economic power, B. advocate for women’s rights in sectors where they face discrimination, and C. improve access to support mechanisms that ensure women have a voice in decisions and policies that shape their economic livelihoods. 

The four winners are:

  • Esenam Nyador is the founder Miss Taxi Ghana which is closing the gender gap in Ghana’s male-dominated transport sector by training women in technical, mechanical, and leadership skills, sensitizing male drivers to gender issues, and showing taxi companies the advantages of female drivers such as improved customer service and safety.
  • A domestic worker by trade, Myrtle Witbooi is the President of the International Domestic Workers' Federation (IDWF) which is uniting domestic workers, trade unions and CSOs from across 54 countries to build an international coalition to demand domestic workers be heard, valued and no longer treated at “outside” the “real” economy.

  • Naomi Mwaura founded Flone Initiative in to end the culture of silence that contributes to gender-based violence in the matatu transport sector in Kenya. Flone secures visibility and the safety of women in this male-dominated sector through an evidence-based toolkit that helps sector leaders improve quality of service delivery to women commuters and encourage women seek out jobs.

  • Finally, Regina Honu founded the Soronko Academy to create both supply and demand for highly skilled female talent in the ICT industry. They provide women and girls with role models and the tools to move from consumers to creators of technology. To convince families and communities that coding offers real jobs and tangible benefits, Soronko is launching a radio program in local languages to engage the public over the career potential for women and girls in ICT.