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Women on the Verge of an Economic Breakthrough

Women entrepreneurs in developing countries face special challenges starting companies and expanding them into firms with growth potential. But equality for women can create economic opportunities and boost efficiency and productivity, as can be seen in developing countries that have embraced gender-parity reforms.

HELSINKI – In 2010, two Kenyan women, Jamila Abbas and Susan Oguya, were angered by newspaper reports about middlemen exploiting small farmers. In response, the two IT professionals launched M-Farm, a company that sends farmers real-time crop prices and market information via SMS, connecting them directly with food exporters and cutting out the middlemen. Now, less than two years later, M-Farm reaches more than 2,000 farmers in Kenya, including many female smallholders, and has won several international awards.

Abbas and Oguya represent a new class of female innovators. They have built a profitable business that empowers women, and that contributes to a more open and inclusive society. It is women like them – entrepreneurs who found companies, create jobs, and lead the way toward gender equality in the developing world – whom we will celebrate on the 101st International Women’s Day on March 8.

According to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2012, which focuses on gender equality, the world’s 3.5 billion woman and girls still face an uneven playing field in education, employment, earnings, and decision-making power.