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Women Challenging Norms to Power Economies Winners Celebration

Women and girls in Africa and the Middle East continue to face negative cultural and social norms that block them from full economic and social participation. These have serious consequences for women, preventing them from actively participating in paid employment and entrepreneurship; subjecting them to sexual harassment and physical violence at home, work, and in public spaces; restricting their mobility; exposing their lack of economic rights; and burdening them with a disproportionate amount of unpaid care and domestic work.

In early 2018, Ashoka, UN Women, and the Open Society Foundations began a process to find innovative and promising women and women’s organizations working to challenge pervasive gender norms and barriers. In May, through a nominated process, we identified 12 women who were uniquely challenging these pervasive norms in their countries. Each received $24,500 and a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa for a collaborative exchange and was then invited to submit a refined proposal. Four final prizes of $125,000 have now been awarded, bringing to nearly $800,000 the total amount of prize money invested in this field. 

The four winners, who will travel to New York City from Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, will discuss key learnings from the initiative and share their experiences in challenging gender norms.

The panel discussion will be followed by a reception.


  • KN

    Kavita N. Ramdas


    Kavita N. Ramdas is director of the Open Society Foundations’ Women’s Rights Program.

  • EN

    Esenam Nyador


    Esenam Nyador is the founder of Miss Taxi Ghana.

  • MW

    Myrtle Witbooi


    Myrtle Witbooi is president of the South Africa Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union.

  • NM

    Naomi Mwaura


    Naomi Mwaura is the founder of the Flone Initiative.

  • RH

    Regina Honu


    Regina Honu is the founder of Soronko Solutions.

  • DL

    Dulcie Leimbach


    Dulcie Leimbach is the founder of PassBlue.

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