Women’s Innovation Leading the Way Forward

Put your ear to the ground. Do you hear the rumblings? That’s the sound of thousands of women quietly – and not so quietly – demanding change. From politicians to activists, from students to CEOs, women are coming together in new ways to dismantle barriers, challenge perceptions and change entire systems to improve women’s lives.

The MATCH International Women’s Fund supports women who are Holding Ground and Breaking Ground for a more equal world. In today’s post, we dig deeper into the concept of social innovation and why new ideas led by women are proving to be critical in creating a brighter future for us all.

Holding Ground and Breaking Ground – what does it really mean?

For us, Holding Ground means maintaining the gains that have been made for women’s rights, especially in the face of religious and cultural backlash that seek to undo years of progress. It means ensuring women have access to shelters when they have been physically or sexually abused and have no place to turn. It means protecting women’s hard-won political gains by ensuring women themselves are aware of their rights and know how to defend them.

Breaking Ground, however, means going beyond the status quo. It means challenging the very systems that perpetuate deeply entrenched principles and practices that continue to oppress women. It means supporting women who are willing to take new angles, new approaches and new risks in the name of equality. It means supporting social innovation for social change.

Social innovation – making changes, making progress

“Social Innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals. A social innovation can be a product, production process, or technology, but it can also be a principle, an idea, a piece of legislation, a social movement, an intervention, or some combination of them.” –Phillis, et al. (2008)

Simply put, social innovation is all about new ideas and solutions – new ways of thinking, working and collaborating to overcome obstacles and challenges. These can be as large-scale as poverty or climate change or as small-scale as sourcing affordable sanitary napkins for young girls.

In our highly globalized and networked world, we are continuously finding ourselves face-to-face with increasingly complex social challenges. Social innovation brings new ways of collaborating and testing ideas to be at the cutting-edge of social transformation. This is especially the case for women’s rights and gender equality, which is a tremendously complex social challenge both here in Canada and around the world.

Women-led innovation the key to a more equal world

They say necessity is the mother of invention and for no one does this ring more true than for the millions of women and girls who must face the harshest of realities and find ways to not only survive but also overcome. From women-only taxi companies in New Delhi to urine powered generators in Nigeria and smokeless stoves in Uganda, examples of women’s engagement with social innovation are plentiful.
Not surprisingly, women-led social innovations are proving to be critical in overcoming the barriers that women and girls face – to change the very systems that hold women back from achieving their full potential.

Legal systems that fail to protect women and young girls from violence are being challenged by smart and creative female lawyers who are using existing laws in new ways to bring justice to survivors.

Educational systems that fail to recognize the unique potential of young women are being inundated with new textbooks and materials that depict women as doctors, engineers and journalists to provide young girls with the encouragement to envision a bigger and brighter future.

Governments that refuse to acknowledge and address the pandemic of sexual violence in their countries are being confronted with crowd-sourced data from survivors that indicates where and how often sexual attacks are happening.

Around the world, women are being told that they are at the root of the problem. But in reality, they are at the root of the solution. It is the innovation of women at the community-level that is leading change and transforming societies for the better.

Providing the space for women’s innovation to thrive

Despite their critical work, women’s innovations are under-funded and under-acknowledged. That’s where we come in. By supporting women who are Breaking Ground, The MATCH International Women’s Fund provides the resources and space for new ideas to be tested, implemented and brought to scale for deep and dramatic change for women and girls in the global South.