LATAM: “Building a future of equality and opportunity”

The Center for International Private Enterprises (CIPE) launched a program for the strengthening of women’s leadership in the developing world. The podcast series (Democracy that Delivers #343: Emerging Leaders – Interns) based on the program and Camila Cepeda and Tina Dolbaia join their supervisors Morgan King, Associate Program Officer on the Latin America and Caribbean team, and Elizabeth Lenz Jedwab, Program Officer on the Europe and Eurasia team to talk the projects they have been working on and what it is like interning at CIPE.

The empowerment programs discussed on the podcast represent a significant visibility in the landscape of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Latin America and the Caribbean. Historically, the volatility of the region has led to significant gender disparity, entrenched cultural norms, and systemic barriers that have brought the full participation and advancement of women in various scenarios in the society. The UN estimates at least 388 million women and girls were living in extremely poverty in 2022. 

Over time, however, there has been a notable attention towards recognizing the vital role that women play in driving social, economic, and political progress. The emergence of initiatives such as the Women Economic Empowerment Projects in Guatemala and El Salvador, along with grassroots movements like “Emprende Mujer”, reflects a growing awareness of the importance of investing in women’s empowerment as a catalyst for broader societal change.

These programs not only provide women with access to resources, skills, and opportunities but also challenge traditional gender roles and norms that have historically confined women to subordinate positions within their communities. By promoting entrepreneurship, leadership development, and economic independence among women, these initiatives are not just addressing immediate needs but also laying the foundation for long-term sustainable development.

Moreover, in the face of unprecedented challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, these empowerment programs have proven to be lifelines for women and communities, offering support, resilience, and hope in the midst of adversity. They have adapted their approaches to meet the evolving needs of women, whether through remote support services, virtual training programs, or innovative economic models. 

“Female entrepreneurship has the potential to be transformative for communities and economies, and help build prosperous societies,” says Maribel Diz, senior vice president and head of Human Resources at Visa Latin America and the Caribbean. By breaking down barriers, expanding opportunities, and amplifying women’s voices and agency, these initiatives are not just transforming individual lives but reshaping entire societies for the better.

Furthermore, the evolution of feminism and gender theory in the region underscores the importance of intersectionality and inclusivity in addressing the diverse needs and experiences of women. From the early feminist movements of the 19th and 20th centuries to the contemporary wave of intersectional feminism, there has been a growing recognition of the intersecting forms of oppression faced by women based on factors such as race, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Networks provide women entrepreneurs with valuable resources: information, access to different markets, sources of financing, possibility of incorporating new technologies into their ventures

As a result, empowerment programs today are increasingly inclusive and intersectional in their approach, recognizing the interconnected nature of social inequalities and working towards comprehensive solutions that uplift all women, especially those who are most marginalized and vulnerable. These programs are helping to create a region where all women have the opportunity to thrive, contribute, and lead.

Through concerted efforts and targeted actions, working towards a future where women have equal access to financial resources and opportunities, driving sustainable development and prosperity for all.

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