DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Rural women comprise a quarter of the world’s population and are the backbone of their economies, comprising an estimated 40% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries as farmers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs.1 Despite their critical contributions to local economies, they continue to face structural barriers to asset ownership, equal pay, participation in decision-making forums, and access to resources and markets. Cultural norms also result in women shouldering most of the responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work.2
Recognizing that improving the lives of rural women is key to fighting poverty and achieving sustainable development, UNDP China and Mary Kay, in collaboration with the China Women’s Development Foundation, the China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges, the Women’s Federation of Yunnan Province and Yongren County Government, launched the SDG Pilot Village Project in Waipula, Yunnan Province, China in 2017.
The joint project, entitled “SDG Pilot Village Project: Women-focused Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development” (2017-2021), addressed the structural barriers to women’s labor market participation, including through the provision of social protection and the creation of green entrepreneurial opportunities through ecotourism, coupled with efforts to enhance women’s leadership in community decision-making forums.
Women from the Yi ethnic group became the drivers of economic growth and poverty reduction through targeted gender-specific interventions that advanced an inclusive local economy and the preservation of their cultural heritage. These activities brought about transformational changes at the local level, advancing gender equality and accelerating sustainable development.
“This project shows how entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool in addressing the income gap between men and women while fighting poverty in rural areas,” said Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China. “Yi women have gained the right skills and resources to leverage their cultural heritage, built solid economic foundations for themselves, and become leaders in their communities, paving the way for future generations.”
The pilot highlights the potential of multi-stakeholder partnerships, including the private sector, in advancing the SDGs while maximizing the development impact of women’s entrepreneurship. UNDP China, together with Mary Kay China and local public sector partners, worked with women entrepreneurs to ensure they were equipped with the tools and education necessary to become economic actors. The barriers to their participation in community decision-making structures were also addressed so that they could actively contribute to creating an inclusive and sustainable local green economy.
“The SDG Pilot Village Project demonstrates how the private sector can play a critical role in helping achieve the SDGs with a strong focus on women’s economic empowerment and provides a blueprint on how companies can leverage their unique strengths and accelerate development results through public-private partnerships,” said Deborah Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer, Mary Kay Inc.
“The women-focused approach of providing entrepreneurial opportunities to rural women proved to be transformative. When women started participating in economic development and consequently gained status in their communities, the whole village benefited,” said Wendy Wang, President, Mary Kay Asia Pacific Region.
The outcomes of Phase 1 of the project provide compelling evidence of the transformational effect that a gender-responsive approach can make to localizing the SDGs and in the design of policy and programmatic responses for a post-COVID-19 green and inclusive recovery.
The project contributed to the following 12 SDGs:
- Goal 1. No Poverty
- Goal 2. Zero Hunger
- Goal 3. Good Health and Well-Being
- Goal 4. Quality Education
- Goal 5. Gender Equality
- Goal 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
- Goal 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Goal 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- Goal 10. Reduced Inequalities
- Goal 15. Life on Land
- Goal 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
- Goal 17. Partnerships for the Goals
The SDG Pilot Village Project – Key Achievements Phase 1 (2017- 2021)
- With the project contributing to China’s poverty alleviation campaign, the proportion of villagers living below the national poverty line fell from 28% in 2017 to 0% in 2020 in Waipula;
- Through training and capacity building, 60 households and 193 individuals living under the poverty line were lifted out of poverty by 2020;
- 210 seasonal migrant workers and 120 long-term migrant workers, the majority of which comprised women, were able to return home to find a job or start their own business;
- 607 local women found employment and raised their income with some emerging as community leaders, taking up roles as members of the village committee and managers in local hospitality and the arts, and
- People’s per capita income grew to be RMB 14,128 in 2021.
To share the story of the SDG Pilot Village Project, Mary Kay and partners have released:
- An Impact Report on Phase 1 entitled “Piloting SDG Localization at the Village Level – A Women-focused Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development Project in Yunnan Province, China” which highlights the genesis, means of implementation and outcomes of the project advanced through a multi-stakeholder supported development process. Read the Impact Report here.
- A video entitled “Daughters of the Moon” featuring three women leaders from Waipula: Yongyan Zhu, Xuefang Xia and Shiqiong Han who speak of the changes they have personally experienced through entrepreneurship. Partner representatives also describe the economic, environmental and social transformations that have taken place in the village. Watch the 11-minute video here.
UNDP China and project partners will soon move to Phase 2 (2022-2024) which aims to:
- Accelerate entrepreneurship: enhance the capacity of villagers, especially women, and raise their income;
- Promote diversity and inclusion: safeguard the local ethnic culture and empower women, and
- Advance green development: protect the natural environment and promote sustainable villages.
For the second year in a row, the SDG Pilot Village Project has been shortlisted for the Reuters Events Responsible Business Awards under its “SDG Pioneer Award” category. The Awards ceremony will take place on 13th October in London.
About Mary Kay
One of the original glass ceiling breakers, Mary Kay Ash founded her dream beauty company in 1963 with one goal: enriching women’s lives. That dream has blossomed into a multibillion-dollar company with millions of independent sales force members in nearly 40 countries. As an entrepreneurship development company, Mary Kay is committed to empowering women on their journey through education, mentorship, advocacy, networking, and innovation. Mary Kay is dedicated to investing in the science behind beauty and manufacturing cutting-edge skincare, color cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and fragrances. Mary Kay believes in enriching lives today for a sustainable tomorrow, partnering with organizations from around the world focusing on promoting business excellence, supporting cancer research, advancing gender equality, protecting survivors of domestic abuse, beautifying our communities, and encouraging children to follow their dreams. Learn more at marykayglobal.com, find us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, or follow us on Twitter.
About United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
As the United Nations lead agency on international development, UNDP works in 170 countries and territories to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. We help countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities, and to build resilience to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP’s work is concentrated in three focus areas: sustainable development, democratic governance and peace building, and climate and disaster resilience. www.undp.org
About China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE)
Operating directly under the Ministry of Commerce, CICETE was founded in 1983 with the approval of the State Council. CICETE’s main function, delegated by the Ministry, is to coordinate the cooperation between China, UNDP and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) including executing their assistance programs in China, and managing projects of general goods supply, South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund projects, and capacity building projects under the China-Aid program to other developing countries. www.cicete.org.cn/en/
About China Women’s Development Foundation (CWDF)
The China Women’s Development Foundation is an AAAAA foundation set up by the All-China Women’s Federation in 1988. It is a national public foundation which raises funds from China and other countries and regions. The mission of CWDF is to safeguard women’s rights and interests, improve women’s quality of life, and promote the development of women and women’s causes in China to contribute towards building a harmonious society. www.cwdf.org.cn/en/
1 International Labour Organization. (2018). Rural women at work: Bridging the gaps. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/equality-and-discrimination/publications/WCMS_619691/lang–en/index.htm
2 United Nations. (2021, October 21). International Day of Rural Women. https://www.un.org/en/observances/rural-women-day
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