Innovation project: Women in Small Enterprise

By Oxfam

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Oxfam’s Women in Small Enterprise (WISE) initiative helps women entrepreneurs overcome the hurdles that can make it difficult-to-impossible for them to build successful small businesses. 

Countless women around the world are building successful small businesses. But the odds against women entrepreneurs in many developing countries can be staggering. Often, they face limited access to credit and property, household obligations that consume their waking hours, and cultural standards that discriminate against them. WISE starts with a systemic understanding of these barriers and attracts partners with expertise in the areas of financial services, women’s rights, advocacy, community development, and vocational training to support women in overcoming these challenges. WISE follows Oxfam’s credo that we can change the world. 

Through the WISE initiative, Oxfam will serve in our traditional role of supporting collaborations between private sector, nonprofit, and government leaders to work in partnership for the advancement of positive social change—in this case, around women’s economic rights in Guatemala. WISE is designed for women emerging successfully from microfinance lending programs with potential for further growth. These women often are not able to access growth capital as they fall into the “missing middle financing gap”—a gap in many emerging market banking systems. They need loans larger than those offered by microfinance institutions and smaller than what would be considered by mainstream banking institutions. And sometimes these are not available.

Core components of the initiative include the newly created WISE Fund, which will support increased loans to women entrepreneurs in partnership with local banking institutions, combined with training programs for women designed to increase their economic leadership.

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