Japan’s Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) has launched Asia’s first impact investment fund specifically aimed at the empowerment of women.
Through the Asian Women’s Impact Fund, the Foundation will invest some USD100 million of its endowment (around 8 per cent of its total assets) in projects and institutions that support women’s empowerment and promote gender equality across Asia.
Income from the investments will, in turn, be used to support women entrepreneurs in South-East Asia by improving their access to finance and enabling them to acquire necessary skills and knowledge to develop their enterprises. The Fund will also be used to help create strong ecosystems for women’s enterprises and for gender-lens investors.
The empowerment of women is one of SPF’s five priority goals (the others are as diverse as establishing ocean governance and fostering understanding of and relationships with Islamic countries).
More specifically, says SPF’s press release, the lack of employment opportunities for women in many Asian countries means that their best option for economic independence is often starting their own business.
Here, however, they are constrained by the difficulty in obtaining loans from financial institutions, which means they have to keep their businesses small. The Fund hopes to help overcome this and to enable women to participate more fully and on terms of greater equality in the development of Asian societies.
Planned investment in the Fund in the first year is likely to be USD10 million, rising to the projected USD100 million figure over its lifespan.