The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) on May 23 will celebrate organizations investing in technologies that boost women’s access to energy – and, in turn, allow them a better chance of competing in the global economy.
To be held at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, D.C., the ICRW Champions for Change Awards Gala will honor the ExxonMobil Foundation, Thunderbird Emerging Markets Lab (TEM Lab) at Arizona’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and the Uganda-based Solar Sister organization. ICRW also will recognize Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with its first-ever Leadership Award for her longstanding commitment to empowering the world’s women and girls. Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large at the U.S. Office of Global Women’s Issues, will deliver the evening’s keynote address, and actor and author Ashley Judd, a member of ICRW’s Leadership Council, will present the awards.
“We’re celebrating how technology has changed the way the world works and lives. Still, many of the world’s poor, particularly women, have limited access to technologies that can help them enhance their economic opportunities,” said ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou. “Our awardees have all moved the needle in terms of supporting the development of innovative, inexpensive technologies that can help women in low-income countries progress economically.”
Indeed, the ExxonMobil Foundation has been committed to analyzing how a variety of technologies – from mobile phones to foot-pedaled irrigation – can buoy women worldwide. Most recently, in 2011, ExxonMobil supported ICRW to take an in-depth look at an untapped market – rural women in the developing world – for agricultural and energy technologies. The report, “Invisible Market,” is forthcoming, and is part of a series of ICRW publications focused on innovation and technology.
Among the technology-driven businesses ICRW examined for its latest report is Uganda’s Solar Sister organization – another honoree – which provides sun-powered lanterns sold by women to women. Solar Sister was an ExxonMobil Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative/Ashoka Changemakers grant recipient in a 2010 challenge titled “Women/Tools/Technology: Building Opportunities and Economic Power Challenge” and inspired by ICRW’s “Bridging the Gender Divide” research.
TEM Lab – which also will be honored at the gala – is also linked to ExxonMobil and Solar Sister. Early last year, a team of students from TEM Lab spent five weeks in Uganda consulting with Solar Sister. Their mission was to diagnose business problems and identify ways to strengthen the organization to benefit the women who buy and sell solar lamps. Together with Solar Sister, the student consultants created a training curriculum for how to introduce and market the lamps, among other endeavors.
Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s senior writer and editor.