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We Run on Women Power! Certification for Women-Friendly Products and Services (like Rainforest Alliance or FairTrade)

Often we told about gender balance within programmes or enterprises, but this is creating only incremental change. The pendulum needs to swing WAY over towards women-led organisations. "Make YOUR business run on WomenPower!" Women Power! could be a certification process of products and services, creating a step change in economic opportunity and empowerment for women. More women-led businesses in the community could provide the required networks for responding to danger, would challenge entrenched gender norms, and drive institutional change.

Photo of Andy Narracott
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Corporates would be engaged to form a working party to figure out how this would affect their businesses (positively or negatively) and mitigation actions required. Multi-nationals would put pressure on suppliers to adopt the Women Power! standards if they want to continue supplying to them, including the suppliers they use (so local water vending companies, or paper suppliers would also need to make theirs a women-friendly business. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development would be a good partner in making this happen.

Also, found this from The Shriver Report, on 10 Things You Can Do to Power a Woman’s Nation: "Use your economic power. You can hold businesses accountable with your money. Be an informed and influential consumer by supporting companies that create a more conscious, caring, compassionate workplace for their employees."

Explain your idea in one sentence.

Creating a branded certification stamp for women-friendly products and services would drive change into the heart of every community, bringing safety and empowerment to every women today and for future generations.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

There needs to be a paradigm shift in gender equity. We need to design solutions that forge or strengthen connections between women, both locally and globally.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

Women will benefit, businesses would benefit by increased brand loyalty, communities would benefit from greater empowerment of their mothers and wives.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

WBCSD UN's International Labor Organisation CARE international (a WSUP member)

Where should this idea be implemented?

In the Board rooms of multi-nationals first, in the programmes of aid organisations on the ground, and through community-based organisations striving for change from the ground up.

How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?

Stick some products in supermarkets with the certification mark and test consumer response. Test the idea with corporate sustainability directors, and whether they'd join a group to make it happen get some local businesses (i.e. on the streets of Nairobi) that are already led by and staffed by women and get some feedback whether the mark would change their customer's perspective.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great to see you here, Andy – and hope all's well at WSUP these days! Awesome idea. Could be good for you and others here to discuss what the certification requirements might include – perhaps you could reach out to your partners and start to riff on this too? As your thinking grows, feel free to iterate your post by hitting the Update Entry up there on the right of your post. Looking forward to seeing where things get to...

Photo of Andy Narracott

Thanks Meena! I'll look out for ways to continue this offline and post updates back here. Thanks!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Way to go, Andy. Great that you know how to roll on OpenIDEO!

Photo of Sean Hewens

What I like about this idea is how we could learn a lot from the organic movement in countries like the US and UK, where consumers were slowly educated via the supermarket to start paying attention to the ingredients inside the products they were buying.

I have a question for you -- do consumers in the countries where WSUP operates have sufficient discretionary income to pay a bit more for a "women friendly" product? Are consumers conditioned to purchase the cheapest version of a product they can find? Or would they pay more for a "women friendly" product? Obviously, we'd want to test for this with an actual prototype, but curious what your gut says.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Just chiming in here with experiences from Dharavi in Mumbai (large low-income area) When doing research via the Helsinki School of Economcis there a few years back, I noted that many people would pay more for items which they perceived to have better brand value (eg. shampoo & washing powder sachets) If brands can do it, I'm assuming that this could be pitched right too?

Photo of Andy Narracott

Great questions Sean >> Community is incredibly strong in some of the low-income urban areas that WSUP works, and the solidarity amongst women only strengthens that. This certification mark could work for businesses at two levels: local level and international brands. For businesses in the community that carried the Women Power! mark, it could increase loyalty amongst women (the main shoppers for their family's needs). and word would spread through word of mouth (the most effective form of marketing where we work). And as Meena suggests, international brands are aspirational and trusted, and people do pay more when they can - as a status thing, and just wanting to provide the best for their family.

Anyways, it might not necessarily cost more to have this mark (unlike fairtrade or organic, whose inputs are more costly).