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Digital Inclusion

Google pledges $25M to empower women and girls

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Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, has announced it will give $25 million in funding to non-profits and social enterprises around the world that are working to advance the economic empowerment of women and girls.

Google Africa made the announcement of the Impact Challenge for Women and Girls during an online event on International Women's Day on Monday, March 8, 2021.

The announcement was an open call for applications from across the continent to non-profits and social enterprises creating pathways to prosperity for women and girls.

The selected initiatives will receive between $300,000 and $2 million in cash grants, as well as opportunities for mentorship and additional support from Google to bring their ideas to life.

Organizations have until Friday, April 9, to submit their applications and then an all-female panel of experts will review submissions and select the ideas with the greatest potential for impact, announcing winners in late 2021.

The expert panel includes women leaders from more than 15 countries across the world, including African powerhouses Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women; Victoria Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, senior special assistant to the president of Nigeria on SDGs; Graça Machel, founder of the Graça Machel Trust; and Kenyan information technology entrepreneur Juliana Rotich.

The Impact Challenge follows initiatives like the 2019 Africa launch of Women Will, Google's initiative to create opportunities for women, and Google's #IamRemarkable workshop series, which works to counteract conditioning that women shouldn't celebrate their achievements.

COVID consequences

Over the past year, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have set back social and economic gains made by women around the world. Google said that women in Africa are by no means exempt from the harsh aftershocks of the pandemic and have actually been hit harder in many instances.

"Job cuts, income losses, lack of education are not simply side effects of the pandemic. They will prevent economic strides for women and girls for many years to come. We are committed to further supporting women in economic recovery. As economies and societies rebuild, we need bold new ideas that will propel us forward and we cannot do it alone," said Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, head of brand and reputation at Google sub-Saharan Africa, at the virtual event.

She said that due to the pandemic, it is estimated that this year 47 million women and girls will be pushed into extreme poverty, bringing the total to 435 million women.

"According to the research from McKinsey and Company, women's jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the current crisis than men's jobs, and while women make up 29% of global employment, we account for 54% of overall job losses. Also 20 million girls are at risk of not returning to school globally," she said.

Growing opportunities

Over the past five years, Google.org has given over $55 million in cash grants to non-profit organizations that support gender equity and access to opportunity for women and girls around the world.

Aderemi-Makinde said that the first Impact Challenge in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 saw 36 organizations across the continent receive $6 million from Google.org.

"In 2017, we made a pledge to train 10 million Africans on digital skills. To date, we have trained over 5 million people and what makes us most proud is that 48% of these are women.

"It's not just about the numbers but also the impact: 60% of the people trained have recorded a direct impact on finding jobs, growing their careers and growing their businesses," Aderemi-Makinde added.

To support women-led businesses specifically, Aderemi-Makinde said that Google has also launched a women-led filter on Google search and Google Maps in English-speaking regions. This means people will be able to search queries for a woman-led restaurant or business in their area.

"When women and girls have the tools, resources and opportunities to turn their potential into power, it not only changes the trajectory of their individual lives, but also strengthens entire communities. If we lift up women and girls, the rest of the world will rise, too," added Google South Africa country director Alistair Mokoena.

*Top image source: Google Impact Challenge.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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