Making Room on the Paths to Economic Development
“I lost my husband last year in March. During the funeral some of my in-laws arranged side meetings because of my husband’s assets,” explained Jane Gordon Sworo, CEDPA Global Women in Management (CEDPA GWIM) workshop participant and treasurer for the South Sudan Women Entrepreneurs Association. “I was mourning, but some people were having these conversations...even others wanted to send me away from the house.”
Jane was a speaker at a briefing on Capitol Hill, which included a fellow CEDPA GWIM participant, Yuza Maw Htoon from Mingalar Myanmar; Jeff Levine, Acting Director of USAID’s Office of Microenterprise and Private Enterprise Promotion in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment; and Plan’s Vice President of International Programs, Christine Sow. The briefing addressed strategies to increase women's participation in developing countries' economies.
“This happens to a lot of widows in other communities in my country. But, I was aware that, if anything happen, I will just go to the law and ask for my rights,” said Jane. “But, imagine the poor women at grassroots level, who don’t know anything about the law and their rights.” Jane went on to explain that women in South Sudan face many challenges. Most are illiterate, cultural practices don’t allow women to own property, and land ownership is often required as collateral for accessing financial services.
Jane shared her story at the Capitol Hill briefing as part of the CEDPA GWIM program. The program, sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative since 2005, strengthens women’s management, leadership and technical skills to enhance and bring to scale programs that advance women’s economic opportunities, building the next generation of women business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Women leaders invited to participate in the program work in economic empowerment programs in countries around the globe.
The women learn not only from the facilitators, but from fellow participants. Each participant shares their experiences, successes and failures for the benefit of the group. The four-week program builds bonds between the participants, giving them new perspectives on the challenges their programs face.
This year’s program also included a networking reception held at the National Press Club where participants heard from a CEDPA GWIM alumna, Marilyn Tabagua Taim founder of the Rural Women’s Development Foundation in Papua New Guinea. At the reception, Marilyn told the story of what she had achieved after the CEDPA GWIM program to a room filled with representatives of embassies, the U.S. government, non-governmental organizations, and the 26 current CEDPA GWIM participants.
“With a $5,000 grant, we did advocacy at national and local-level government forums and brought awareness to the issue of market access for women,” explained Marilyn. “With that money, we also organized women to form a company to cooperatively buy semi-trailer trucks for transport to use at the Liquefied Natural Gas projects. After two years, the truck has made over $200,000 net profit for the women members.”
Marilyn was an alumna from the CEDPA GWIM in 2008. When she came to the program, she did not know what her future held because her project was winding down, and she was out of a job. With the skills she learned during the workshop, she started the Rural Women’s Development Foundation. “At the intense four-week training, the CEDPA facilitators told us to write out a project plan to implement based on what we have learned. For me it was difficult because I was out of a job. I decided I could take what I learned and I started to write project proposals. That’s how the Rural Development Foundation was formed,” said Marilyn. “I would like to encourage the GWIM participants who are in this room to apply what you have been taught. It will work for you as it has worked for me.”
Learn more about the CEDPA GWIM program.