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The urgency of investing in adolescent girls: EMpower at the AVPN India Summit

Posted 17 December 2019 in EMpower News   |   Share


On November 28, EMpower participated in Asian Venture Philanthropy Network’s (AVPN) third edition of its India Summit in Bengaluru. A rich pool of philanthropists, corporations, impact investors, financial institutions, policymakers and capacity builders convened at the summit to collectively exchange perspectives and key insights about the dynamic socio-economic challenges that India is grappling with.

Gender Lens Investing in India: Landscape and road ahead

At the event, Alifya Loharchalwala, EMpower’s Senior Program Officer for India, emphasized the urgency of investing in adolescent girls to build financially independent young women in the foreseeable future. Alifya was on a panel designed to create dialogue around actionable Gender Lens Investing (GLI) models across the capital spectrum in India. Under the ambit of sustainable investing, GLI has gained considerable momentum in the past decade as an approach that seeks to develop functional investment strategies to benefit women.

The panel brought together diverse players from responsible business, impact investment, philanthropy and NGOs to represent the supply and demand sides of GLI such as Bengaluru-based venture capital fund Menterra Venture Advisors, women rights organization Breakthrough, and rural women’s financial empowerment nonprofit Mann Deshi.

Taking the evidence that investing in the advancement of girls and women yields social and financial returns as the point of departure, the panel discussion focused on:

  • How different types of funders are developing their strategies for gender, the nature of their investments, and how their strategies are operationalized
  • Gaps between available GLI models
  • Variety of approaches and areas of focus within GLI
  • Needs of recipient organizations
  • Way ahead for GLI

Highlights from the discussion

While data was presented to explain why it makes economic sense to use a gender lens while investing, Alifya urged everyone to look beyond a purely good-for-economy approach and understand that it is important to invest in resource-intensive projects that may or may not yield financial benefits. She said that in its support of work with young people, especially adolescent girls, EMpower recognizes the systemic imbalances and institutional inequalities we are dealing with. The other points that Alifya raised were:

  1. Looking for financial returns in a five-year timeframe does not allow opportunities to work with groups that require high support and investment
  2. Need for blended financing i.e. strategically using development finance to mobilize additional resources towards sustainable development in developing countries
  3. Importance of patient capital when considering long-term gains
  4. The need for investors to address their own subconscious biases
  5. Changing the narrative of success and power and moving beyond investing only in a certain profile of people
  6. Women are not a homogenous group, intersectionality needs to be considered while designing age and region specific interventions

  • Devika Mahadevan, Head Strategy and Communications at Mann Deshi, highlighted the organization’s bottom-up banking approach. Mann Deshi seeks to empower female entrepreneurs and their communities by providing access to knowledge, capital, markets and social support.
  • Mukesh Sharma, Co-Founder & Managing Director at Menterra Venture Advisors Private Limited underscored the importance of focusing on financial sustainability and shared examples of Menterra’s investment in women entrepreneurs.
  • Sohini Bhattacharya, CEO Breakthrough, highlighted the importance of patient capital, elaborating that change happens over a long period of time.

Check out photos from the GLI panel here! Know more about how EMpower amplifies the voices of girls and advances girl leadership in India through the Girls Advisory Council and the Adolescent Girls Learning Communities.

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