Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in the MENA Region

GE and Ashoka Changemakers are seeking your innovative solutions that will advance economic opportunities for women in MENA, strengthen their families and communities, and enable them to benefit equitably from economic growth.

Three winners of Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in the MENA Region will each receive US $25,000 in unrestricted funding to support their innovations. Enter before the early entry deadline (October 2, 2013) to be eligible to win one of two additional cash prizes of US $1,000. The entry period closes on November 6, 2013.

Please read our Welcome Letter to learn more about our search, and visit the Guidelines, Criteria & Prizes page for more information on how to enter.

Connect with us on Facebook and track #womenWork and @changemakers on Twitter for the latest news about the competition.

For questions, email [email protected].


Three prizes, each totalling US $25,000 in unrestricted funding to support your innovation.

Early entry prizes, one of two US $1,000 prizes.


Winner is Announced

January 15, 2014
  • Launch
    August 21, 2013
  • Early Entry Deadline
    October 2, 2013
  • Entry Deadline
    November 6, 2013
  • Finalists are Announced
    December 4, 2013
  • Winner is Announced
    January 15, 2014

Dear Changemakers Community,

Families, communities, and nations prosper when women have access to economic equality. Empowering women economically not only contributes to economic growth, but also enhances the wellbeing and resilience of societies as a whole. The multiplier effect from investing in women—such as generating better health and education outcomes, safer communities, and sustainable development—has been well documented.

In the MENA region, women have made progress toward establishing equal access to economic opportunities, especially with regard to access to education. Today, in many MENA countries, more women attend university than men. However, only 25 percent of all women in MENA participate in the workforce—half the rate of the global average. Women in MENA still face disproportionately high barriers to building quality livelihoods and securing economic rights, including inadequate access to quality jobs, skills training, and capital, limitations on mobility, and discrimination in the workplace.

Ashoka Changemakers and General Electric have launched this online competition Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in MENA to surface and support innovations that enable the full economic participation of women.

We are seeking solutions that enable:

  • Access to quality employment opportunities
  • Access to capital, technology, and resources
  • Education or training leading to increased job competitiveness or entrepreneurial capacity
  • Safe working conditions, transportation, and infrastructure to support women's employment
  • Connections between entrepreneurs and market opportunities
  • Shifting cultural attitudes toward gender roles and ending gender discrimination in the labor market (e.g., equal pay for equal work, expanding the types of jobs deemed appropriate for women, and equitably distributing responsibilities)
  • Gender-responsive public policy, advocacy, and organizing for women's economic rights

Eligible solutions are not limited to the topics listed above. Three winners will each receive $25,000. Participating in the competition also connects you to a community of action that includes like-minded innovators, impact partners, sector experts, and potential investors.

Support Solutions that achieve economic equality for women in the MENA region. Submit your innovation or nominate one today.


The competition is open to all individuals, organizations, and partnerships from around the world.

Entries may originate in any country, but must have their primary point of impact within one or more of the following countries:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Iraq
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

Idea phase entries are eligible, and we encourage their entry. However, the judges are better able to evaluate programs that are beyond the conceptual stage and have demonstrated a proof of impact. Entries must be submitted in English, Arabic, or French.


Three prizes, each totalling US $25,000 in unrestricted funding to support your innovation.

Early entry prizes, one of two US $1,000 prizes (if you enter before October 2, 2013).

How to enter:

Read these step-by-step instructions or watch this video. Read these tips about how to create a better entry and boost your chances of winning.

Please complete the entry form in its entirety and submit by the deadline, 6 p.m. EST on November 6, 2013.

Assessment Criteria

Winners of the Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in the MENA Region competition will be those that best meet the following criteria:


The best entries will be those that demonstrate a substantial difference from other initiatives in the field. Distinctiveness will be given a high ranking by the judges. Innovation does not necessarily involve inventing something entirely new. It may comprise new products or processes, as well as new applications or hybrid combinations of existing tools. Entries should describe how their solutions are driven by original, ground-breaking ideas.

Social Impact:

Entries should describe how the innovation advances economic equality for women in MENA. Entries should reflect an understanding of the systemic barriers within the innovation's specific context, and should describe how the innovation impacts these barriers. The best solutions will have demonstrated impact, as well as the potential for scaling-up and replication. Entries should explain how the solution measures social impact through both quantitative and qualitative data.


Entries should have a clear plan for reaching long-term goals and securing financial backing - they should describe not only how they currently finance their work, but also how they plan to finance it in the future. They should also have a realistic time frame for implementation. The most successful entrants demonstrate that they have strong partnerships and support networks to address ongoing needs, and to aid in scalability and the maintenance of a clear financial strategy.

Deadlines and Procedures

Online competition submissions are accepted until 6p.m. EST on November 6, 2013. At any time before this deadline, competition participants are encouraged to revise their entries based on questions and insights that they receive through the Changemakers online discussion. Participation in the conversation enhances an entrant's prospects in the competition, and provides the community and the judges with an opportunity to understand the entrant's project more completely.

There are five main phases in the competition:

  • Entry Stage:
    Beginning August 21, 2013, entries can be submitted until 6 p.m. EST on November 6, 2013. Throughout this stage, anyone can participate in an online review discussion with the entrants.
  • Early Entry Deadline, October 2, 2013:
    Entries received by 6p.m. EST on October 2, 2013 are eligible for the Early Entry prize. Being an Early Entry Prize winner does not preclude you in any way from winning the competition, nor does it guarantee finalist status. All entries will be evaluated equally at the completion of the entry period using the Changemakers criteria.
  • Entry Deadline, November 6, 2013, 6p.m. EST.
  • Judging and Evaluation: November 6, 2013 - January 15, 2014
  • Winners Announced, January 15, 2014

Disclaimer - Compliance with Legal Restrictions

Ashoka complies fully with all U.S. laws and regulations, including Office of Foreign Assets Control Regulations, export control, and anti-money laundering laws. Any grants will be awarded subject to compliance with such laws. Ashoka will not make any grant if it finds that to do so would be unlawful. This may prohibit awards in certain countries and/or to certain individuals or entities. All recipients will comply with these laws to the extent they are applicable to such recipients. No recipient will take any action that would cause Ashoka to violate any laws. Additionally, Ashoka will not make any grant to a company involved in the promotion of tobacco use.


Total value:
77 000

Three prizes, each totalling US $25,000 in unrestricted funding to support your innovation.

Early entry prizes, one of two US $1,000 prizes.

Competition entries



Omayma was paying for a crime she didn’t commit.

After taking out a loan to finance her sister’s trousseax, her father convinced Omayma to sign as a guarantor claiming it was “just a formality.” When he passed away, Omayma was left responsible to pay the price.

Mar 21, 14


According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, only 14.3% of women in the country participate in the labor force. Lack of social and financial support and restrictions imposed on access and mobility serve as major obstacles for women who want to pursue fulfilling careers. In this landscape, Sabiha Ghani has been a game changer who has redefined the economic space for women in her community. She has fostered initiative and independence by founding the Women Development Foundation Pakistan (WDFP) which supports hundreds of women in starting their own business ventures.

Mar 03, 14

“Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world – the numbers tell the story quite clearly,” says Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her 2010 TEDx Talk. Sandberg’s advice to women in her New York Times bestseller, “Lean In,” is relevant across the globe: less than half of working-age women worldwide are employed, they are paid less on average than men for the same work, and the chances of rising to the top of a Fortune 500 company are not in a woman’s favor.

Feb 24, 14