—Program Achievements with Support from USAID—
The Ilu Women’s Empowerment Program directly impacted over one thousand participants throughout Latin America and the Caribbean through technical assistance, knowledge dissemination and advocacy, and fundraising of blended finance capital. It is the largest and most comprehensive initiative in the region to advance gender-smart business and investing practices.
Recent research proves that when organizations actively support gender equity they tend to be more profitable, more productive, make better decisions and retain more talent. Still, women remain largely excluded from financial and investment opportunities. In Latin America and the Caribbean, up to 70% of women-owned enterprises report unserved or underserved credit needs (IDB, 2015), resulting in a $93 billion dollar credit gap for women-led businesses, the largest gender credit gap worldwide (IDB Invest, 2019). Aware of this untapped potential, Pro Mujer and Deetken Impact teamed up in 2019 to launch the Ilu Women’s Empowerment Fund. This USD 35 million gender lens investing fund has supported 25 companies throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Over time, the Ilu Fund team realized that mobilizing gender-smart capital alone was not enough to facilitate a fundamental transformation towards greater gender equity in the region. This led the partnership to design and launch the Ilu Women’s Empowerment program, with the valuable support of USAID.
The initiative sought to address critical obstacles to the adoption of gender-smart investing and business practices by working with companies and investors in three strategic ways:
- The expansion of the Ilu Fund with risk-adjusted blended finance capital.
- Technical assistance to companies, which included engaging with the Fund portfolio enterprises in customized projects to develop gender-smart business practices.
- Knowledge dissemination and advocacy, developing an open-source toolkit, hosting regional workshops, leading investor education events, and sharing case studies to leaders, collaborators, companies and the investing ecosystem at large.
In all three areas, the results were very promising. The initiative raised USD 5.8MM, exceeding the initial fundraising target, and welcomed a new and diverse set of investors. In 15 technical assistance projects, the Fund directly trained 474 portfolio company team members from nine Latin American and Caribbean countries. As a direct result of these engagements, portfolio companies are developing and launching gender-focused business strategies and practices, such as:
- 4 products under design for women clients, accompanied with non-financial services
- 9 Human Resources guides for inclusive talent management processes
- 10 policies developed to promote diversity, equity and inclusion throughout business operations, and
- 24 tools, dashboards, and procedures designed to strengthen data management practices and integration of a gender lens throughout information systems.
To promote knowledge dissemination and advocacy, the Program included the Ilu Toolbox, an open-source platform featuring 27 tools that provide practical guidance, templates, and recommendations to advance gender practices. The Ilu Fund team organized a series of 9 investor education events that reached 841 people across the Americas, highlighting gender lens investing as a smart strategy that reduces portfolio risk and enhances return. Additionally, the team led 17 regional workshops and webinars that attracted over 600 business leaders and entrepreneurs to provide training and guidance on gender-smart business practices.
Alexa Blain, a co-founder of Deetken Impact, reflected on the Program’s success: “We are proud to have promoted an initiative of this magnitude, which has undoubtedly positioned gender lens investing in Latin America, transforming how thousands of leaders manage their organizations. This Program sets a clear precedent for the development of Latin America’s economy and the advance towards gender equity in the region.” Carmen Correa, CEO of Pro Mujer, agrees: “The ILU Empowerment Program is more than a powerful tool to foster gender lens investment. It is also a driver of change that boost gender equality in the region. Undoubtedly, gender lens investing creates a positive impact on women’s lives, the profitability of companies, and the economic development of countries as a whole”
Learn more about the program, and download the reports and technical assistance case studies at https://iluwomensempowermentfund.com/impact/
About Ilu Women’s Empowerment Program
The Ilu Women’s Empowerment Program, launched by Deetken Impact and Pro Mujer, is an initiative that seeks to advance gender equity and gender smart business practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was recognized by the Inter-American Award for Good Practices in Women’s Leadership with a Special Mention in the category Private Initiatives: Women’s Leadership in the Business. To learn more about program, visit: https://iluwomensempowermentfund.com/ilu-womens-empowerment-program/
About Pro Mujer
Pro Mujer is a social enterprise that has been working to advance gender equality in Latin America for over 32 years. It provides underserved women with financial inclusion, skilling opportunities and health services in order for them to reach their full potential, become agents of change and improve their living conditions.Building on the expertise it have acquired over its years of experience, Pro Mujer offers a wide array of consulting services through its Gender Knowledge Lab. To learn more about Pro Mujer, visit www.promujer.org
About Deetken Impact
Deetken Impact is a Canadian registered investment fund manager with a 10-year track record of delivering risk-adjusted returns to investors by supporting businesses that make a meaningful contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. Together with its joint venture partners, Deetken Impact Sustainable Energy and Deetken Impact Alternative Finance, Deetken Impact manages US$150 million in impact assets. Deetken Impact currently manages 5 funds and has completed 49 investments in 14 countries in Latin America & the Caribbean since founding in 2012. To learn more about Deetken, visit https://deetkenimpact.com/