COL’s GIRLS Inspire initiative aims to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through skills development for livelihoods. Empowered women and girls are a key driver for sustainable development.
In collaboration with its many partners, COL is training women and girls in marginalised communities in developing Commonwealth countries in technical skills, life skills and financial and digital literacy that, in turn, facilitates access to credit for self-employment and links them with employment opportunities.
Various mechanisms are used to link women and girls to potential employment opportunities, such as internships, employment camps and exhibitions. For example, COL’s partners, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, Pakistan and the Women Development Centre, Sri Lanka recently facilitated women and girls’ participation in the Behbud Art & Craft Bazaar in Islamabad and the ‘Femme Creatif’ exhibition in Kandy.
The exhibitions created the opportunity to showcase the work of GIRLS Inspire and tell the stories of marginalised women and girls who have excelled and contributed, not only to their own lives but to the lives of the communities they come from.
They also provided an opportunity for the women and girls to interact with a wide variety of people including artisans, organisations, entrepreneurs, potential employers and consumers. An indirect opportunity arose for the skills trainers who, through their interactions with customers, gained a better appreciation of what the market required. As a result, they are now keen to incorporate producing such products into future courses.
Exhibitions and arts and craft fairs can be a great way for artisans to sell their work, connect with customers and build reputation.
Ms Frances Ferreira, Acting Director: Skills, COL reported that both events successfully promoted products made by GIRLS Inspire’s women entrepreneurs and helped to establish a long-term customer base and stable market for local handmade products. She added, “COL’s GIRLS Inspire provided the women and girls with skills which gave them confidence and agency, which enabled their participation in these markets and informal networks. This is the first step in establishing themselves as entrepreneurs, generating an income and contributing to improved lives and livelihoods for themselves, their families and communities.”