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When Women are Empowered, Everyone Benefits

By Simona Haiduc

Women's economic empowerment isn't just a humanitarian effort—it is essential to the growth of strong, prosperous communities worldwide. When systemic barriers are removed, and resources are accessible, women can become truly unstoppable agents of change in their communities. They drive economic growth, provide jobs, and reinvest in their children's education and healthcare.

More importantly, tearing down gender barriers to markets is a viable business strategy that can uplift millions. According to the World Economic Forum, closing the gender gap in employment could lead to increases of up to $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

Unstoppable Women: Creating Agents of Change for ALL

As global leaders in financial inclusion and economic empowerment, Opportunity International and The UPS Foundation’s Unstoppable Women Initiative aims to remove barriers for women entrepreneurs in underserved markets, breaking down systemic barriers, and creating lasting economic impact. Through our Unstoppable Women Initiative, we are identifying barriers women face to run successful businesses through access to training, financial, and other needs through the program. The program unleashes capital and strengthens the credit-ready pipeline of growth-oriented women-owned micro and small businesses.

Thanks to this partnership, we are able to train, empower, and pave the way for women entrepreneurs through:

  • Access to Capital: Providing essential start-up and growth capital enables women-owned businesses to scale their operations and increase resilience.
  • Capacity Building: By offering entrepreneurial training we equip women with the skills and knowledge to excel in a competitive market.
  • Empowered Ecosystems: Through networking and mentorship, women create strong support networks vital for sustainable success.

Our partnership with The UPS Foundation started in India, but with a new commitment to expand efforts we are growing this proven model to serve vulnerable populations in Nigeria, Colombia, and Indonesia. The initiative has a three-year goal of directly empowering 48,605 women, positively impacting over 1.5 million individuals by the end of 2025.

So what does that look like in real terms? We connected our teammates on the ground to get a sense of how empowering women can transform entire communities.


In India, the participation of women in the workforce has been notably low, with a significant gender gap in employment. According to the World Bank, only 35% of women have bank accounts, creating barriers to women’s empowerment. As part of the Unstoppable Women initiative, we are building a network of women banking agents—a type of consultant and service provider that helps connect the most vulnerable to vital financial services that help people build sustainable livelihoods.

The banking agent model has proven successful in bringing services throughout India. Since most of these agents are men, however, the model exacerbates long-held cultural and economic norms that keep women from achieving their own goals and dreams.

For Farzana Bijur, the work we have done reaching women in rural India has already established a bedrock of trust—paving the way for even more success training women not only as entrepreneurs, but as true agents of change.

“This initiative isn’t just about promoting financial inclusion for women, it’s about changing the way our communities think about women in the workplace. By demonstrating women’s capability to provide these services, we inspire and encourage other women to participate, further increasing the impact through a demonstration effect.”


Nigeria faces considerable challenges in women's economic participation, with a stark gender disparity in employment and financial inclusion. According to a 2018 report by the World Bank, only 37% of Nigerian women have access to banking and financial services, reflecting significant barriers to save, get credit, and build economic opportunity.

"In Nigeria and Africa as a whole, one of the major challenges faced by business owners is access to affordable and accessible banking and financial services to grow their business,” said Opportunity’s Alice Lajwa, Microfinance Manager for our Africa operations. “Credit is a key component to business growth and sustainability, and our programming aims to bring more access to the hardest to reach areas across Nigeria.”

Expanding this work into Nigeria enables capital to be released and a stronger, credit-ready pipeline of growth-oriented women-owned micro and small businesses.


Colombia faces a gender gap in access to both banking and financial services, with the Global Findex Database showing only 73% of women in Colombia owning a bank account. According to Crezcamos, our financial partner in Colombia, partnering on the Unstoppable Women initiative is about creating the flexibility and support that women don’t typically receive.

“This program allows us to provide numerous offers to clients who have a history of struggling to manage their businesses,” said Katherine Contreras, Protection Solutions Director for Crezcamos. “Having access to these benefits allows us to achieve a greater impact in the community and deliver the benefits to more customers.”

Our partnership with Crezcamos already serves more than 5,000 women entrepreneurs—including farmers, microbusiness owners, and teachers. With regionally specific trainings to improve financial, business management, and marketing practices to support success, the expansion of our programming will help thousands more invest in their business be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

“Our women clients receiving this support will be more resilient and be ready to face adversities and protect their crops through the climate insurance.”

Catalyzing Growth Through Empowerment

As the world works to recommit efforts to achieving the Sustainable Development goals, the synergies between Goals 1 (no poverty) and 5 (gender equality) can help us build a world where everyone has the ability to build sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families.

The expansion of this collaboration is an effort to further catalyze these global goals. By reducing barriers to financial services and creating an environment for success, the thousands of women we serve ultimately impact countless others in their families, communities, and economies.

Thanks to our shared values, this collaboration between The UPS Foundation and Opportunity International’s women’s empowerment programming places us on a path toward an even larger fight: ending extreme poverty. In championing women's economic empowerment, we not only advance gender equality but also lay the foundation for a more inclusive and prosperous world for all.


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