Swisscontact promotes gender equality and the social inclusion of all people. As an employer, we place particular emphasis on balanced leadership structures with family-friendly work conditions. We include the gender perspective in all our project activities. An example is the “Rural Opportunities” project in Honduras. Its objective is to improve the productivity and increase incomes of vulnerable population groups, which include young men and women working in the tourism, cashew nut, fruits, and dairy sectors. Based on an in-depth analysis, the project team developed a strategy to overcome gender-specific discrepancies. It was determined that women are underrepresented in leadership positions of cooperatives, even though their participation as members is essential for successful cooperation. Therefore, these organisations were given close guidance to foster women’s participation. This has resulted in women now heading committees at cashew nut processing facilities and dairy processors. Additionally, sensitisation campaigns were launched on social media to raise awareness of the different workloads faced by women and men. The introduction of time-saving technologies (such as weeding machines and wheelbarrows) has had a sustainable effect on women’s workloads, and they are now more able to participate in decision-making processes.
By facilitating access to transparent and affordable financial services and channels, Swisscontact is helping entrepreneurial people to participate actively in economic life. An example of microfinancing is the “M4C – Making Markets Work for the Chars” project in Bangladesh. The river areas of Bangladesh, commonly known as chars, have the potential to become an important zone of production. However, the poorly performing market system lacks investment, and credit institutions are not interested in investing, because frequent flooding in the region constitutes a risk of production failures that is much too high. The project team initiated dialogue with numerous financial institutes and national development programmes to advocate for the construction of branch offices in these areas and issue seasonal loans. These services would then be available once farmers started paying for equipment or other agricultural investments. The repayment plans consider the fact that farmers depend on revenues from the sale of their harvests or cattle. Char farmers have proven themselves as dependable loan recipients who comply with repayment conditions, with very few defaults.
Swisscontact fosters competencies and skills for environmental protection, actively seeking solutions for the sustainable use of resources. In various projects, “green sectors” such as recycling and sustainable transportation are supported with the corresponding know-how, while environmentally-friendly businesses are strengthened. The “Markets for Recycling” in Bolivia supports local businesses to build business models for processing and monetising waste materials from the transportation sector. These materials include tyres, lead batteries, and scrap metal. This lowers CO₂emissions, and fewer pollutants contaminate the environment. At the same time, new jobs are created and businesses grow. Working together with local actors, the project team is implementing various initiatives: for example, laws are drafted that obligate manufacturers to use resources conservatively and implement recycling; various webinars, events, and sensitisation campaigns on the topics of waste management and circular economy are held. In addition, an app has been developed that brings together waste producers, green businesses, and waste collectors, in order to facilitate the recycling of materials.
Swisscontact promotes transparent, responsible, participatory, and effective decision-making processes, strengthening government institutions, economic growth, human development, and social cohesion. The Skills Development Programme (SDP) in Cambodia helps young men and women with low qualifications in rural areas to access gainful employment and earn higher incomes. The Inclusive Systems Development (ISD) approach is applied to systematically analyse the barriers young people encounter in accessing vocational education and employment. In order to overcome these barriers, representatives from government, the private sector, and education together identify actions to take. Partners have a high sense of personal responsibility from the get-go, as they are leading the work themselves, while our Swisscontact project team plays the role of moderator. As a result of this process, detailed agreements with goals and milestones for implementing vocational education and employment initiatives are worked out, along with financial plans detailing the costs and responsibilities of all stakeholders involved.