Gender, Youth, and Social Inclusion
We design our programs to ensure that women, youth, and underrepresented groups are empowered to take leading roles and benefit from our assistance. This includes integration throughout the program lifecycle: from input in program design, to representation on program teams and advisory bodies, to our intentional partnerships with local organizations. We develop, track, and analyze performance indicators that measure progress toward gender equality, youth engagement, and social inclusion—and adapt as needed to achieve results. We ensure accountability through multiple mechanisms, including conducting gender analyses for each program, program assessments, staff training, and linking staff performance to targeted results.
Kenya, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka
Farmer-to-Farmer Access to Finance (F2F A2F)
Program Overview: F2F, a volunteer-driven program, expands agricultural sector access to financial services and increases agricultural sector productivity and profitability, thereby raising incomes and creating jobs. The core countries for the F2F Access to Finance Program are Kenya, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka.
Relation to IESC Expertise: Financial services are fundamentally important to start, grow, and sustain any agricultural enterprise, but women and youth face particular challenges accessing credit. Where women and youth lack physical collateral, the IESC implemented F2F A2F program works with financial institutions to consider alternative forms of collateral, such as sales history through digital payment services and buyer purchase orders to demonstrate repayment capacity. IESC also supports financial institutions to deploy capital through risk guarantee mechanisms with partners such as the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to lower perceived risks of lending to youth and women without credit history.
Youth Employment and Business Start-up (YouLead)
Program Overview: YouLead is enhancing employment opportunities for youth in Sri Lanka by working with both the public and private sectors to: improve the quality and relevance of vocational and technical training; link youth to demand-driven employment opportunities; and increase sustainable self-employment through entrepreneurial and business development services.
Relation to IESC Expertise: YouLead’s AccelerateHER initiative supported the first customized accelerator program crafted to empower early-stage female-led startups in Sri Lanka. YouLead-trained female entrepreneurs pitched their validated business concepts and grew their businesses through increased partnerships, revenue, and hiring. For young women without university degrees, IESC chose to work in ICT, a male-dominated sector that typically requires a university degree, to build new pathways into employment. Through AccelerateHER’s virtual ICT skills-building platform, where approximately 50% of participants are young women, IESC enables youth from marginalized backgrounds to fill the industry’s supply gap and demonstrates that companies can meet workforce needs through inclusive recruitment.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)
Workforce and Higher Access to Markets (WHAM)
Program Overview: WHAM assisted high-growth, exporting, and export-ready SMEs in specific sectors through grants and volunteer technical assistance that improved the workforce; helped companies to identify and access new customers and markets; and helped companies introduce quality management systems, technology upgrades, and/or necessary certifications in demand by target markets, especially the EU. WHAM also supported the establishment of centers of excellence in the targeted sectors.
Relation to IESC Expertise: In BiH, IESC’s workforce training efforts reached many remote and disadvantaged communities, which suffer from a lack of employment opportunities, especially for youth, high levels of emigration, and decreasing population numbers. IESC’s targeted skills training helped provide youth new choices that allowed some youth to remain in and contribute to their community. In particular, training in industrial automation, including robot welding, computer numeric controls (CNC), and programmable logical controller (PNC) skills helped increase SME capacity to meet precise international supply chain requirements and enhanced youth’s agility to embrace new technologies.