Supporting Women’s Economic Inclusion in Colombia

Federico Restrepo is a +SocialGood Connector and co-founder of Impact Hub Medellín. The Hub uses innovation and entrepreneurship to develop solutions for the SDGs, including expanding economic opportunities for women. As part of our SDGs on the Ground series, Federico writes about what drives him to pursue this work.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

My niece, Milagros (‘miracles’ in English), was born six years ago in Colombia. At the time, I was in the Philippines, and that night, I could only think of the world she would grow up in: the gender inequality, the gender-based violence, the lack of opportunities. In Colombia, for example, women receive 12.1% less payment than men for equal work, and 89.5% of women perform unpaid housework. Only 14% of businesses in the country are owned by women, and in top management, we only see 36% of senior roles filled by women.

Even though I was already working on gender-related issues, my niece’s birth was a defining moment for me. So from that moment on, I started learning a bit more about these systemic injustices against women. When we founded Impact Hub in Medellín, one of our main priorities was to generate opportunities for women through entrepreneurship, and we did it through our programs. We already had the requirement that at least 50% of our participants, facilitators, and mentors have to be women, but we were lacking a program focused solely on women.

In November 2020, my team and I at Impact Hub Medellín worked together with Proantioquia, a local development organization, to launch Emprender Mujer. The initiative focuses on strengthening the participation of women in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We were joined by organizations such as Grupo Argos, Bancolombia, Fundación Siemens, and Comfama to put together a whole program that supports the entrepreneurial journey of 50 women-led start-ups, including:

  • Workshops to structure and strengthen the businesses,
  • Networking opportunities to connect the women with corporation and funds,
  • A mentorship component connecting women leaders from large companies and successful entrepreneurs with our participants,
  • A “Demo Day” for participants to showcase their work and have the opportunity to access funds,
  • 8 months of support, including mentorship and access to experts, and
  • Other benefits from partners including Amazon Web Services, IBM, and local organizations.

This is the first year we’re running the program, and we have 50 women-led businesses in a variety of sectors including fashion, food and beverage, and education. Next year, we hope to open it up to the entire country, and support at least 100 more women-led businesses. Women’s rights are human rights, and we hope that we can normalize this through our program.

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