Economic Empowerment for Asia’s Women Requires More Support


Naina Subberwal Batra and Olivia Leland


This article was originally featured on Nikkei Asia here.

5 min read

Women bear the brunt of war, pandemics and climate change.

Globally, women are 14 times more likely to die in climate events and four times more likely to be displaced because of climate, according to research by Aon and Women+ in Climate Tech. The Russia-Ukraine war has widened gender gaps in food insecurity, malnutrition and energy poverty, and increased gender-based violence around the world. Not to forget the long tail of the COVID-19 pandemic which has increased domestic work, forced millions of women out of their jobs and reduced salaries for others.

To tackle gender injustice and improve women’s economic outcomes with urgency, the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) launched a $25 million Asia Gender Equality Fund last month at the Business 20 forum that was held alongside the Group of 20 summit in Bali.

The launch triggered engaging conversations around the importance of integrating gender principles in philanthropy and impact investing. As Co-Impact launched its Gender Fund, its second fund, in March, our two organizations are celebrating in solidarity our shared vision and diversity in approach to realize a more gender equal world.

If we want to achieve meaningful progress in any area, we cannot leave half of the world’s population behind. Adopting inclusive solutions and collectively investing in addressing barriers to progress for women and girls is an imperative for our generation.

We must develop solutions that are responsive to the specific needs of women and girls at all levels. In doing so, we can lay the foundations for them to not only survive, but thrive, even in the face of unexpected, unavoidable disruptions like we have seen in the past decade.

A relief camp for flood victims in Fazilpur, Pakistan, in September: Women are four times more likely to be displaced because of climate. © AP

The AVPN and Co-Impact gender funds share a common goal: To transform key systems while applying a strong gender lens that will make these systems more inclusive and equitable.

AVPN’s Asia Gender Equality Fund focuses on strengthening organizations that implement or anchor interventions addressing specific, urgent needs around women’s economic empowerment in Asia.

By providing unrestricted funding to small and midsize organizations, the fund will empower founders to improve their service delivery and improve outcomes for women and girls in Asia.

Co-Impact’s Gender Fund aims to raise $1 billion over the next 10 years. This money will be directed toward locally rooted initiatives in Asia, Africa and Latin America working to advance gender equality and to improve outcomes in health, education and economic opportunity for at least 100 million people.

The program also aims to advance women’s leadership at all levels, increase women’s representation in the critical domains of law and economics, shift discriminatory gender norms and generate evidence to inform practice.

Robust evidence is key to driving impactful interventions. Yet when it comes to gender equality, gaps in data and a pervasive lack of disaggregation by sex and other demographic characteristics point to the chronic lack of investment in this area.

While there are numerous efforts to improve women’s rights, opportunities and participation, there remains a dearth of information around what strategies work best, and how funders and those implementing interventions can develop relationships grounded in trust, honesty and codependence.

Moreover, even when data on gender equality exists, funding is often slow to follow the evidence. Although women’s rights organizations play catalytic roles in driving systemic change, they remain underfunded and underrepresented, receiving less than 1% of funds distributed by foundations.

This indicates a lack of true appreciation of the value of data that reflects how certain issues impact men, women and gender-diverse people differently. Data production can only be as valuable as the analysis it undergoes and how it is translated into accessible outputs that can be trusted and used by policymakers, social change agents and civil society.

For both AVPN and Co-Impact, data underpins our approach to fund design, informing how we define outputs, outcomes and objectives. Both of our gender funds seek to contribute to the body of evidence by generating data and identifying gaps in existing data.

AVPN’s approach focuses on fostering relationships that expand opportunities for evidence generation by convening sharing circles and creating safe spaces for funders and grantees to share lessons, challenges and expectations.

Adopting trust-based philanthropy in its Asia Gender Equality Fund, AVPN uses streamlined learning and data collection to build trustworthy relationships between funders and impact organizations to address power imbalances between funders and grantees. This allows these organizations to focus on creating impact instead of drowning in administrative work.

Co-impact focuses on generating and sharing research and learning to benefit partners and other social change makers. All grants have a strong focus on learning that is partner-led.

In funding, there can be nothing for women without women. Interventions seeking to advance women’s power and agency must reflect representation of women, girls and other gendered minorities, and go beyond tokenistic approaches to truly inclusive ways of integrating women’s voices and needs.

Instead of merely building individual women’s capacities, for example, funding should invest in creating pathways for women to enter and thrive in leadership positions, promoting women’s leadership at a more impactful scale through changes in institutional policies and practices. To this end, philanthropists have a critical role in funding the transformation of laws, cultural norms and institutional practices to create pathways to intersectional leadership for women collectively.

We at AVPN and Co-Impact recognize that we are living in a momentous time with immense opportunity to leave a more gender-equal inheritance to the next generation. The time to collaborate and act for true gender equality is now. We call on philanthropic leaders to adopt an abundance mindset and invest more in advancing gender equality to transform our systems and create a just world that benefits everyone.


A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training


Naina Subberwal Batra and Olivia Leland


Naina Subberwal Batra is chief executive of the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network. Olivia Leland is chief executive and founder of Co-Impact, which coordinates with philanthropists and foundations to support gender equality projects in the Global South.

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