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Soroptimist International of Europe

Soroptimists empower women to find employment

2 - Economic Empowerment

Each year, Soroptimists design, fundraise for and implement projects to help improve access to economic empowerment opportunities for women.

We do so by giving women and girls the education and practical skills needed to enter the labour force and become economically independent.

Many Soroptimist projects in the area of economic empowerment are conducted in partnership with micro-credit organisations, enterprises, and other institutions. Together with our partners, we provide women with the skills and resources they need to flourish as entrepreneurs or as employees. In areas where women don’t participate in traditional banking or financial services, we help them gain access to credit so that they can start their own small business.

Our economic empowerment projects also extend to remote rural areas where women are often caught in a poverty trap and spend much of their time on menial tasks. We build wells in communities to reduce the time women spend hauling water for cleaning or cooking, and train women on how to increase their crop yield and sell what they produce in larger national and even international markets. 

Some of our recent ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT projects:

  • Soroptimists in Etiler and Mardin in Turkey, together with Soroptimists from San Diego in the United States, have since 2005 been running a weaving workshop for illiterate women in Mardin in South-eastern Turkey. Partnering with the Governorship of Mardin and the Mardin Public Training Centre, they train women how to produce handmade carpets. The project also encourages participants to pursue formal education. Several hundred women have so far benefitted from the project.
  • Soroptimists across Switzerland have for several years now been running a microcredit project to help women wishing to start their own small businesses get a loan to do so. Soroptimists are providing CHF 30,000 loans to selected entrepreneurs, payable within 4 years. Given the careful selection process, the project so far has a 90% success rate! The project is run in collaboration with Mikrokredit Solidarität Schweiz which coaches the new entrepreneurs throughout the lending period.
  • Following the devastating earthquake in Emilia in 2012, more than 140 Soroptimist Clubs across Italy joined forces to help rebuild economic opportunities for women who’d lost their source of income in the disaster. They initiated the building of a highly innovative shopping centre out of assembled second-hand shipping containers. Seventeen women entrepreneurs were thus able to re-open their businesses in the “mall”. The project was conducted in collaboration with the Municipality of Cavezzo.
  • Soroptimists in Milimani, Kenya, are helping enhance women’s entrepreneurial skills by funding the rebuilding of women’s homes and businesses. As a result, over a two-year period, 40 women started sustainable small-scale businesses. This is helping meet their families’ living expenses, contributes to their children’s education, and helps maintain their homes.
  • Soroptimists from Apeldoorn in the Netherlands recently started a series of empowerment training sessions for teenage mothers. Their goal is to help young mothers build confidence and to encourage them to pursue their studies in order to gain access to better economic opportunities. The trainings were given to young women coming from positions of social isolation. Since its start in 2013, 140 women have benefitted from the project and some of them have already started their own businesses in Apeldoorn!