Communities affected by disasters face enormous financial costs that severely limit long-term prospects for social and economic progress. Women and girls are especially vulnerable in disaster situations. Studies show that more women die in disasters than men. At the same time, women play a critical role in providing for their families, as many women are the leading provider of household incomes. The “Women’s Empowerment for Economic Development and Resilience” project addressed this situation by strengthening livelihood opportunities for women in vulnerable communities in El Salvador, linking them to business development resources and disaster risk reduction strategies for both their enterprises and households. PADF provided trainings and small grants to support women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, increase the adoption of risk reduction strategies, and protect their livelihoods from future disasters.
By distributing small grants and supporting 60 women entrepreneurs’ business plans, many families now have better opportunities for business success. With the support of PADF, each participant was taught the basics of using platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. This was an important new skill for many women, who gained access to new means of promoting their businesses and finding new clientele. The women also participated in business expos organized by PADF, where they were able to practice pitching their businesses and demonstrate their products to consumers. These events were also opportunities to link the women to companies and other women entrepreneurs to learn from them.
In addition to business growth, the project has helped women prepare for disasters with trainings in disaster planning and household finances. This information has been used by the participants to raise awareness in their communities and ensure that their families are better prepared for future disasters. In the words of one participant, “Knowing how to reduce risks in our homes and communities is vital and is something we can share with others.” Through entrepreneurship, women-led households and businesses in El Salvador have become more disaster-resilient, and women have become leaders in disaster preparedness.