Women Leaders: Empowering Female Social Entrepreneurs

A pushback against gender equality is a fact in many countries globally. When urgent action was needed – “a pushback against the pushback” – focus had to be shifted towards combating the current pandemic. However, the covid-19 outbreak not only moves gender issues away from the public further into the private sphere. It also affects women’s everyday life on the individual level. For instance, many countries report an increase in domestic violence with 30% as families are forced to practice social distancing in quarantine.

Social support and women’s involvement in public life are strong factors for gender equality. It is essential that we continue working – even during the health crisis – to foster stronger, more empowered and more active girls and women, in order to make sure that the pushback will not define our societies when the crisis is over. At the same time, this crisis had uncovered a unique untapped resource. Social enterprise can be a catalytic tool for social change. Not only can social entrepreneurs act quickly and decisively to tap market failures and provide critical and innovative social services, they can also uncover unjust systems and power structures, shedding light on unequal and flawed systems. Social enterprise combines the best of entrepreneurial thinking, and applies this to social issues in need of transformation. Today, social enterprise can play a unique role in building up a new “normal”, a more equitable, green and purposeful economy and society.

In societies where women face obstacles in receiving funding to start up innovative companies due to their gender, the society as a whole will loose in the new economy driven by innovations. It should therefore be in the best interest for every society to ensure that a country’s economic policy entails a well-functioning supply of capital to all skillful and talented entrepreneurs – women and men. In addition, a conducive environment where innovation can thrive is critical, and needs to be invested in, and encouraged. Especially when it comes to innovative solutions that can have the potential to solve critical environmental and social issues today.

The Women Leaders initiative is a capacity development project supporting female social entrepreneurs in order to strengthen the economic position of women, towards financial independence and system changing solutions for structural inclusion. The long-term goal is to create a more stable and inclusive society for all and leave no one behind. Together, Reach for Change and Global Utmaning, will create platforms for constructive dialogue. The initiative is funded by the Swedish Institute.

The programme seeks to uncover some of the barriers facing female social entrepreneurs, and make collective recommendations based on this powerful collective experience. Furthermore, this initiative aims to promote positive examples and role models that can act as catalysts for policy recommendations and increased support models.

Inorder to adress the issues at hand, a mapping of structural obstacles for female social entrepreneurs has been conducted in the Women Leaders initiative  – Read the full report here.

Written Statements:
2021: ECOSOC High-Level Political Forum
2019: ECOSOC High-Level Political Forum

2021: Women Leaders launches capacity building program
2021: Women Leaders Talks
2020: Women Leaders mapping: Structural obstacles for female social entrepreneurs 
2019: Women Leaders: Empowering Future Generations

Seminars and conferences:
2021: Women Leaders: Social entrepreneurship for a just transition – Side event at the 59th UN Commission on Social Development

Januari 2021: ”Riskkapitalet måste även nå kvinnorna”, Dagens Industri
2020: ”New initiative “Women Leaders” uncovers some of the biggest barriers for female social entrepreneurs and how to combat them” – Pressrelease ENG – Pressrelease SWE
Women Leaders sneak peek – The moment of Change

The Women Leaders strategy was initiated in 2018 after a high-level roundtable with leading women from business, politics and civil society. As a result of the roundtable, the Sofianetwork was formed with the aim to inspire, lead and strengthen young girls and women’s self-confidence and self-esteem through female entrepreneurship, innovations and a more effective gender equality policy in particular. In 2020 the Women Leaders initiative grew and is now a joint project between Reach for Change and Global Utmaning, funded by the Swedish Institute.

Tove Julin, project manager,